South Side District: Improving rangeland though brush control
Editor’s note: The South Side Conservation District is celebrating 60 years of conservation since the establishment of the district in 1953. They are providing information throughout the year on the district’s accomplishments in that time.
Over the years, the district’s cooperators and landowners have installed many conservation practices that have improved the environmental conditions within its boundaries. Practices such as irrigation pipeline, irrigation diversions and structures, sprinkler irrigation systems, reseeding rangeland and brush control on grazing lands have reduced erosion and improve production in the district.
One of the reasons the district formed was to control erosion on pasture, hay and range land. Soil erosion was causing loss of production on these areas, as well as contributing to sedimentation within fields, in irrigation ditches and drainages of the area and the Colorado River. The eroded areas were overgrown with the larger shrub species, such as big sage and rabbit brush, which gave very little ground cover to protect the soil from erosion.
Landowners were interested in reducing erosion and restoring the productivity of the area. The district responded to the need and began promoting brush management to encourage cooperators to manage the areas invaded by the unwanted shrubby species.
The basic treatment was to mow the sagebrush with a rotary brush beater and open the area so water and sunshine would be available to encourage growth of desired vegetation. The treated area would be deferred from grazing for two growing seasons. In some areas, reseeding would also be needed to establish desired species. The improved condition would provide additional cover, protecting soil from erosion and increase grass production for livestock and wildlife.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s the district implemented a grass reseeding program as a follow-up to the treatment of the invasive shrubs. In this program, the district basically purchased seed and resold it to the landowners at a reduced rate. This program helped to establish desired vegetation on lands within the district.
Sixty years later, the South Side Conservation District is still promoting and assisting landowners to implement brush management on lands in the district. Only now, the species has changed and landowners are reducing invasive shrubs, improving the plant community, reducing erosion and sedimentation, improving water quality and enhancing wildlife habitat. Now the target species to control is tamarisk, which has invaded most of banks along the major streams in the district in the last 30 to 40 years. Currently, we are using several methods of control to eliminate or reduce the amount of tamarisk. Control methods include chemical, mechanical and biological treatments.
If you need help with planning and treatment of a resource problem, such as brush control, tamarisk treatment, grazing issues, soil erosion or an irrigation-related issue, contact the district office. District or Natural Resources Conservation Service staff will be glad to help and explain treatment methods, alternatives and programs that might help you contribute to conservation of our natural resources within your conservation district.
Dennis Davidson is a retired Natural Resources Conservation Service director for Garfield County. He is also a conservationist for the South Side Conservation District.
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