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Ecological Restoration
Re-establishing and maintaining native plant and wildlife species is an important goal of the Natural Areas Program. Efforts in 2004 included a combination of intensive weed treatments, transitional cover crop plantings, native grass seedings, and engaging some native wildlife in the control of non-native trees!
Various Approaches

It was a banner year in 2004 for combating non-native plants. Staff controlled 15 invasive plant species on 37 out of 40 natural areas. The integrated weed management approach employed by the Natural Areas Program utilizes a variety of methods to produce maximum results. Seasonal staff cut, pulled, sprayed, and farmed nearly 4,000 acres in the effort to promote healthy native grasslands. At the Resource Recovery Farm, Nix Natural Area, Kingfisher Point, and Pelican Marsh, transitional cover crops (wheat and oats) were used to out-compete weed infestations and prepare the soil for native grass seedings in 2005. Finally, more than 80 acres of non-native Russian olive trees were removed at Riverbend Ponds and Kingfisher Point natural areas to promote the healthy growth of native cottonwood trees.

Wildlife Helpers
The aid of the native beaver population (volunteers only, of course) was enlisted in the fight against non-native trees. Natural Areas Program staff treated the base of native cottonwood trees along the Poudre River sites with a non-toxic sand, color-matched paint mixture to deter beaver activity on cottonwoods and encourage the beaver to select non-native crack willows (untreated) as a food source. This “directed diet” enables the beaver to co-exist with the native vegetation while contributing to the Natural Areas Program’s non-native control efforts. Beavers were encouraged to help control non-native trees
Beavers were encouraged to help control non-native trees
A Continuing Approach

In 2005, the Natural Areas Program will plant approximately 1,000 acres of native grassland on nine natural areas. Each site will require constant monitoring to ensure the establishment of native grasses. Look for the red seeding tractor at a natural area near you!

The dream of healthy, restored prairie and foothills ecosystems inched a bit closer to reality in 2004. The Natural Areas Program’s restoration efforts will kick into high gear once again in 2005!

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