In recent years, a Russian olive eradication project has been a combined effort of New Mexico-based San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District and Colorado-based Mountain Studies Institute. SJSWCD spearheaded the planting of 100 trees and numerous shrubs for the Children’s Nature Meadow in Animas Park.
The project is in conjunction with Riverside Nature Center, Friends of Riverside Nature Center and city of Farmington.
Russian olives, which can grow 35 feet tall, are native to East Asia and Russia and typically will overtake species including willows and cottonwoods. Their vast underground root system can draw up to 75 gallons of water in a day.
If not treated with pesticides, a tree’s stumps can send out shoots that will soon flourish with new tree growth. Russian olive trees were introduced to the U.S. in the early 1960s as an ornamental plant and were also used as windbreaks.
Russian olive is widespread throughout the United States as a tree and is listed as a noxious weed in New Mexico and Colorado. The U.S. Forest Service field guide contains recommendations for management of Russian olive trees in forests, woodlands and rangelands.
Farmington Nature Center has tried to manage its Russian olive population for the past 20 years, opting not to choose wholesale eradication of Russian olive trees on their lands, said Don Hyder, a board member for over two decades.
“At some point, an introduced invasive species eventually becomes a part of the ecosystem, and it can’t be considered invasive anymore,” Hyder stated previously in the Durango Herald. “After a couple hundred years, it becomes part of what’s there.”
Gary Hathorn, noxious weed coordinator with the San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District, has led New Mexico’s efforts to remove the species as far south as Shiprock, the article stated.