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More volunteers sought after for final phase of Rifle Creek Restoration project

A slew of volunteers help during restoration efforts at Rifle Creek.
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So far, nearly 60 volunteers have helped plant 2,700 native trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers along Rifle Creek, according to a Thursday news release.

The effort is part of a two-year project spearheaded by the Middle Colorado Watershed Council and the Colorado State University Colorado Natural Heritage Program. Now in its third phase, the project initially set out to restore extensively nearly a full mile of Rifle Creek, just three miles below Rifle Gap Dam, the release states.

Organizers are seeking to attract more volunteers to help with the effort. Any prospective volunteers interested to learn about the best practices to improve creek habitat and increase biological diversity can join up with the riparian restoration effort starting today.



Over the past two years, 5,000 native plants were planted along the stream banks, drip irrigation was installed, and extensive fencing built around newly installed plants. Over 80% of those plants are thriving, a remarkable success rate, the release states.

“The efforts to re-establish cottonwoods and other native plants along this stretch of Rifle Creek is a monumental effort – providing benefits for the project site, as well as up and downstream reaches,” CNHP Project Manager Lisa Tasker said in the release. “Rifle Creek is an important tributary to the Colorado River. As the plants grow, they will provide shade to cool the creek and improve habitat for fish and wildlife. This is a rare case study of best practices on private land and a demonstration site for the benefit of other landowners.”



Landowner John Powers is collaborating with CNHP, the MCWC, and USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service to mitigate impacts from the Rifle Gap dam and past agricultural activities, as well as to control invasive tamarisk, Russian olive and other weeds, along the creek, the release states.

Volunteers smile as they help out during a restoration effort at Rifle Creek.
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Local volunteer Trish O’Grady, who helped out during previous stages of the project, said she enjoyed meeting new people, hearing their stories, exchanging ideas and learning new facts about flora and fauna.

“I believe as a local citizen it is important to role model positive values to inspire young people to build upon their love of nature and their community. What I found most interesting was learning more about the plants in our valley,” she said in the release. “Lisa was able to explain the physical difference between the invasive Russian olive tree and the native buffaloberry shrub which is very similar in appearance. She also confirmed the importance of allowing the milkweed plant to grow, it is the only plant the monarch caterpillar eats.”

Colorado’s riparian areas along natural waterways provide habitat for 80% of wildlife while occupying less than 3% of the arid western landscapes, and hence have outsized importance, the release states. Trees and shrubs along river banks are critical for maintaining water temperatures, filtering runoff, preventing erosion, providing nesting habitat and refugia, and sustaining pollinator and insect populations, among a myriad of other services. Everything benefits from a healthy stream.

To get your hands dirty in the soil, the effort runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Everyone will meet at Powers’ ranch, located about a mile north on Colorado Highway 325. Just turn right on Hasse Lane.

“We strongly encourage you to sign up through the Middle Colorado Watershed Council website. We also need to make sure to order just enough food, and that helps up when people sign up in advance,” Tasker said on Thursday.

The event is free. Food, drinks, gloves and shovels are provided. Register online and receive directions by clicking here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/riparian-restoration-at-rifle-creek-ranch-phase-2-tickets-155876582053

For questions e-mail reviveriflecreek@gmail.com.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com


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