Why Are We Removing Trees In Wyoming?
The “trees” that we are mitigating are actually called Russian olives and are shrubs that were added to the noxious weed list in Wyoming in the early part of 2007. They are the shrubs with the silver-colored foliage in the photo below. The most important objection to their existence along our waterways (not in neighborhoods) is that their roots absorb a vast amount of water (some studies have shown that each tree can use up to 200 gallons of water a day) along our rivers and creek beds, which becomes a huge problem for western populations suffering through extended droughts.
In addition, according to a study conducted by Emily Collins on “Introduced Species” in March of 2002, "the Russian olive has a tendency to spread quickly, is a menace to riparian woodlands, threatening strong, native species like cottonwood and willow trees. They are responsible for out-competing a lot of native vegetation, interfering with natural plant succession and nutrient cycling and choking irrigation canals and marshlands in the western United States. This displacement of native plant species and critical wildlife habitats has undoubtedly affected native birds and other species. The heavy, dense shade of the Russian olive is also responsible for blocking out sunlight needed for other trees and plants in fields, open woodlands and forest edges. Overall, areas dominated by the Russian olive do not represent a high concentration of wildlife."
“There is a serious concern that should the Russian olive continue to establish itself, it will become the dominant woody plant along Colorado’s rivers, where it is already taking over hundreds of thousands of acres of cottonwood and willow woodlands." Some cities are already taking steps to remove the Russian olive, including Casper.
"The Russian olive is difficult, if not impossible, to control or eradicate. The main reason for this is the Russian olives’ capability of producing root crown shoots and “suckers”. Pruning or simply cutting does not have any effect on the Russian olive, as it tends to resprout heartily from the root stump. The Russian olive is also a fire resistant plant and tends to colonize burned areas, yet burning with a combination of herbicide spraying on the stump can possibly prevent the Russian olive from resprouting. Mowing the Russian olive with a brush type mower and removing cut material (and then spraying) is probably the most effective way of attempting to eradicate the plant.”