SHERIDAN — City of Sheridan staff will remove the invasive Russian olive from areas around Sam Mavrakis Fishing Pond and Hume Draw this spring.
Since it was first introduced to North America in the late 1800s, Russian olive has steadily spread across the country.
A classic colonizing species, once on the ground, Russian olive seedlings grow quickly, often on barren or disturbed land.
“Russian olive made its name as a drought-tolerant, cold-resistant and fast-growing nursery species,” said Clark Van Hoosier, city arborist. “These three attributes are very appealing in regions like Wyoming where it’s difficult to grow trees.”
Add to that its high survival rates and fast maturation, this arboreal interloper can quickly choke out native trees, shrubs and grasses. So much so, that Russian olive is classified as a noxious weed in Wyoming, which means it cannot be sold commercially and each county must develop a control plan.
“The problem is Russian olive is too well-suited for the area, and it’s able to outcompete our native species,” Van Hoosier said, explaining that draws, stream banks and irrigation ditches are particularly susceptible to Russian olive infiltration. “Now we have these thick stands of Russian olive on our landscape, especially in riparian areas, where willows and cottonwoods can’t outgrow the olives.”
Van Hoosier added those dense olive stands cause problems for other plants and animals, too. Russian olive also disrupts the understory species, eliminating the native shrubs, forbs and grasses that the surrounding wildlife depend upon.
“So as Russian olive cover increases, flora and fauna diversity decreases, creating a less productive and less stable landscape,” he said.
To remedy that, Van Hoosier and Peter Veinbergs will work to remove Russian olive from Sam Mavrakis Fishing Pond and Hume Draw. To do so, the pair will be hand-felling and chipping Russian olives on-site. According to Van Hoosier, the trees are “rampant sprouters,” so each olive stump will be “immediately treated with herbicide to prevent regeneration.”
The chips from the downed Russian olive will serve as mulch for a new generation of native trees, shrubs and grasses.
The project is made possible through a Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resource Trust grant awarded to Sheridan Community Land Trust aimed at covering the cost of removal. That grant is coupled with additional funds from The Nature Conservancy and Natural Resource Conservation Service.
For the city of Sheridan, those dollars will go even further.
Van Hoosier explained there was room in his department’s budget to pay for the olive removal, meaning the $4,500 in grant funds can be used to purchase more native trees and shrubs than what would have been otherwise possible. It will also allow South Park to be treated, meaning the project will cover a full 10 acres of Sheridan parks.
Both Van Hoosier and Brad Bauer, Sheridan Community Land Trust executive director, encouraged landowners to consider removing invasive Russian olives and replace them with native vegetation.
To inquire about grant availability, contact Bauer at SCLT at 307-673-4702 or email@example.com. For more information about Russian olive removal, contact Van Hoosier at 307-752-5792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.