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Management

H20 power aids planting

Written by Echo Renner
Thermopolis — Members of the Grass Creek Weed Management Area (WMA) planted trees late May using a new tool — a waterjet stinger.
    The waterjet stinger is a six-foot long 1/2-inch steel pipe with handles. It attaches to a water hose connected to a pump mounted on an ATV. The pump draws water directly from a creek. Producing 110 pounds of pressure, when pushed into the ground for hydrodrilling the beveled stinger tip creates a mud slurry, increasing the survivability of tree cuttings planted in the opening.
    The tool is used to plant dormant, unrooted poles of hardwoods that can easily sprout from cuttings, such as willows, cottonwoods and dogwoods. Dormant cutting are used because they are easy to harvest and plant, inexpensive and effective. The waterjet stinger can create holes up to six feet deep, allowing the cuttings to be planted into the water table, which is crucial for their establishment. The tool is easy and fast to use and the liquefied soil that settle around the trees eliminates air pockets in the root zone.
     Marvin Andreen, Hot Springs County Weed & Pest Control District Supervisor, constructed the unit at a cost of $1,800. He says willows planted in openings created by the waterjet stinger are expected to have an 80 percent survival rate.
    The Grass Creek WMA formed in 2005, the same year the Cottonwood/Grass Creek Coordinated Resource Management began. Since that time the group has removed Russian olives and tamarisk says Larry Bentley, Natural Resource and Policy Coordinator with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. Forming a Watershed Improvement District, they’ve since worked to remove other invasive species and replace them with native species.
    Now in the rehabilitation phase, they’re planting about 1,000 trees — willow, cottonwood, red osier dogwood and river birch — in the drainages this year. A crew of 16 to 18 people worked together late May planting the trees using the waterjet stinger. Landowner John Leroux operated a tractor and post hole auger to plant larger cottonwood pole cuttings.
    Cutting were made while the trees were dormant in the Cottonwood/Grass Creek drainages in February, and kept in dark, cool storage, until about two weeks prior to planting, when they were submerged in water. The WMA also purchased narrow leaf cottonwood trees from the Hot Springs County Conservation District.
    Some landowners are fencing the riparian areas to allow the newly planted trees to become better established. Landowner and CRM partner Dee Hillberry explains, “Most ranchers have changed management practices, not letting their cows sit for six months in riparian areas. They’ve developed off-site water and put in miles of pipelines to get that water where it’s needed, which improves the range. Then they’ve fenced the riparian areas and maintained a protected corridor to allow the native trees to grow, and benefit the wildlife and promote rehabilitation of the riparian area. Funds are available to landowners from the NRCS and the Wyoming Water Development Commission to do just that.”
    “I feel good about this weed management area,” comments Andreen. “We’ve received about $70,000 in grants for this project alone, not counting $225,000 from the Wyoming Wildlife & Natural Resource Trust., and about 85 percent of landowners on Cottonwood and Grass Creek participate.”
    Partners in WMA include private landowners, Marathon Oil, the state, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the NRCS, conservation districts, the Wyoming Game & Fish, the Hot Springs County Weed & Pest, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, the Wyoming Department of Transportation and county road and bridge. All partners sign a memorandum of understanding and work toward the goals of the CRM.
    For more information, contact Marvin Andreen at 307-864-2278 or Amy Anderson at 307-347-2456. For more information about the waterjet stinger, log onto http://plant-materials.nrcs.usda.gov/pubs/idpmctn390201.pdf. Echo Renner is a field editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup.