Wetlands restoration project taking place at Jackson Lake
When you camp at your favorite State Park or plan a hunting a trip on your local State Wildlife Area (SWA), you likely havenít given a second thought to natural resources that exist on those properties.
However, you will notice when those resources are taken away or are no longer there. The landscape suddenly changes and our favorite open spaces do not seem so familiar. Such is the dilemma of Parks and Wildlife Managers when they consider long term habitat management projects and the impacts on our visitors.
One in the works is the wetlands restoration project at Jackson Lake State Park and neighboring Jackson Lake and Andrick Ponds SWAs. At the heart of the restoration is the removal of 60-plus acres of Russian olive trees. They are a tree that is prevalent throughout Colorado and especially in areas where water is scarce.
Originating from Southern Europe and Eastern Asia, the tree was planted throughout arid areas as windbreaks and for much needed shade on the sandy Great Plains. When permitted to grow without management, the tree will take over pasture lands and wetland areas increasing nitrogen in the soil and allowing other noxious weeds to take root. Growing in dense groves allows this thorny tree to out-compete native plant species and to draw large amounts of moisture from the soil and waterways.
Some estimates suggest that one tree will consume 75 gallons of water per day.
Impacts to wildlife are also great. Russian Olives can create some habitat and food sources for local wildlife however, with a forestry management plan that includes a diversity of trees and plants, wildlife diversity has been shown to also increase. Owls, bats, squirrels, and migratory birds are often unable to utilize Russian Olive groves for food and habitat.
In some areas, those trees have clogged ditches, destroyed fences and grown into roadways causing a chain effect of destruction.
A first phase of the wetlands restoration project is set to begin this fall at Jackson Lake. CPW land managers will use a phased three-year approach to address the most immediate needs such as those areas where trees have impacted infrastructure or pose a threat to property. Removal and treatment in these areas will limit large impacts on wildlife and allow for immediate replanting of native plants.
Previous work on other CPW areas has taught us that native species are very hardy and will rebound to fill the void created by Russian Olive removal. In most cases this creates a new opportunity for shade on your campsite or for habitat on your next hunt.
While the landscape will change over time, the goal is to make your CPW lands continue to feel familiar with each visit.