Wheeler Wildlife area near Silt gets cleaned up | PostIndependent.com

Wheeler Wildlife area near Silt gets cleaned up

A little-known state wildlife area just west of Silt recently had a much-needed makeover, thanks to a partnership between the Middle Colorado Watershed Council, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Tamarisk Coalition.

Wheeler Wildlife Area, a wetland adjacent to the Colorado River that is administered by CPW, had become choked with invasive tamarisk and Russian olive, as well as other non-native weeds, which were impacting native habitat.

“This is an important area to protect,” said CPW district wildlife manager Brian Gray. “It is one of the few areas on the river that is a backwater slough. It’s connected to the river and recharges every year, supporting a variety of fish, birds and other wildlife.”

Gray initially undertook the task of weed removal but asked the Tamarisk Coalition to step in when the project grew too much to handle for one person. TC in turn approached the watershed council to perform the work on the ground.

Removal of tamarisk and Russian olive was initiated in 2012. This spring, with the help of the Rifle Correctional Facility’s State Wildland Inmate Fire Team (SWIFT) and the Western Colorado Conservation Corps, crews returned to the wildlife area to plant native vegetation, including cottonwood trees, sumac and buffalo berry shrubs.

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Total project cost was approximately $20,000, which was covered by a CPW Wetlands for Wildlife grant.

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