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CPW habitat restoration project at Connected Lakes enters revegetation phase
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Over the course of the month, Colorado Parks and Wildlife personnel will begin seeding and planting native species, including cottonwoods and willows, in areas where tamarisk and Russian olive were removed earlier this year.

Students from Bookcliff Middle School will get hands-on experience, assisting CPW with the effort on Dec. 3, 10 and 17.

The project at Connected Lakes, coordinated in conjunction with the Tamarisk Coalition and funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, began last November with goals of removing a thick stand of non-native Russian olive and tamarisk - also known as salt cedar.

"Right now, the area looks very different than before and some people have expressed concern about the large number of the non-native trees that were removed," said Park Manager Pete Firmin. "We want everyone to know that once the habitat enhancements have been completed, it will be an even better place for people to enjoy native plants and animals."

Russian olive and tamarisk were brought to this country in the late 1800s to control erosion and provide decorative landscaping however, they quickly began outcompeting native plants for available moisture, nutrients and sunlight.

Typically found along rivers and streams, a large population of water-loving tamarisk may lead to reduced flows during periods of drought. In addition, their deep roots bring up salts from deep within the soil, creating an inhospitable growing environment for other species.

Because nearly 90 percent of Colorado's wildlife species depend upon riparian habitat during all or part of their life cycle, the removal of undesirable non-native plants is a priority for conservation groups and wildlife managers.

Area Wildlife Manager JT Romatzke of Colorado Parks and Wildlife says that healthy habitat is crucial for the survival of a variety of animal species.

"Once restoration of these areas is complete, people we will see a healthy native habitat and thriving wildlife populations," he said. "We appreciate everyone's patience while the restoration is ongoing."

The project at Connected Lakes is expected to continue through spring of 2015. The other sections of the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park are slated for future restoration projects.

Additional restoration projects at Walter Walker, Colorado River Island, Franklin Island and Tilman Bishop State Wildlife Areas are scheduled to begin in late 2014 and will continue for approximately five years. Additional monitoring and maintenance will occur for several years after revegetation has been completed.

For more information about riparian restoration, go to