For a while now I have been involved in a program called “The Exotic Species Elimination Project.” This was a project through my Biology class at Front range Community College, put on by my teacher, James Choun. He introduced this project to the class, and I saw it as a perfect opportunity to help the environment.
About 50 years ago, Russian Olive Trees were brought over to Colorado. The reason they were brought over was to shield crops from the wind, due to the thick, bushy nature of the tree. However, when these trees were brought over none of the trees' predators or things that helped keep the population of the tree in check (natural enemies) were brought with it, giving the tree a competitive advantage over the native Colorado species. Russian olive trees have an extremely deep root system, which makes it hard for any nearby trees to get the water that they need. The trees also consume lots of water, which has caused the water levels of the nearby rivers to lower dramatically. This costs the state millions of dollars, as well as incurring severe damage to the environment and local wildlife.
In this project we strive to get rid of as many of these trees as we can. Cutting down trees isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when taking on an environmental project, but I’ve learned that these issues can be more complex then they first appear. So far most of the work being done is in the Loveland area. What we do is cut down the tree, and with the remaining branches we make brush piles, which provides shelter and a habitat for the local wildlife. Once the tree is cut down, we then apply chemical treatment to the stump which kills it completely.
Next on the agenda for me is a school visit to Preston Middle School with Peter Stetina to talk to the youngsters about the importance of environmental sustainability.
Thanks for reading,
Tejay van Garderen