International Pilot Program To Fight Salt Cedar

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PRESIDIO, Texas — Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is teaming up with the Rio Grande Institute, the National Park Service, and Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas in Mexico to help control a nemesis of the Rio Grande.

Salt cedar, a species of tamarisk tree, was first brought into the U.S. in 1837 to protect streambanks from erosion. The mature trees, which can grow up to 30 feet tall, infest more than one million acres along rivers and streams throughout the American West and parts of Mexico. The Rio Grande and its tributaries have been hard hit; native cottonwood trees and desert willow are being choked out, and stream flow has been diminished.

The Rio Grande has become lined with salt cedar in Big Bend Ranch State Park, Big Bend National Park, and on the adjacent riverbanks in Mexico. Therefore, two pilot control and native habitat restoration studies are planned at two locations in the Big Bend Area to remove salt cedar and to re-vegetate the areas with native plants such as cottonwoods, willows and mesquites. The site located in Big Bend Ranch State Park will be at Colorado Canyon River Access Area, and in Boquillas Canyon in Big Bend National Park. The outcome will be two-fold: first, demonstration sites for the general public to learn how they can help restore areas they live in with native vegetation, and second, more pleasant and ecologically sound places to visit. The two pilot projects are being funded and supported through a number of organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund, the Meadows Foundation, the Trull Foundation, and the Friends of Big Bend National Park.

The project will also be an educational and community service project for Presidio High School environmental science students who will help with removing salt cedar and planting replacement native vegetation. Additionally, the Presidio students may be able to conduct pre- and post-monitoring of the site in Big Bend Ranch State Park to study the effects of salt cedar removal on bird populations and neighboring vegetation.

Anyone who would like more information on the collaborative project may contact Big Bend Ranch State Park at (432) 229-3416 or (432) 424-3327.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department manages natural and cultural resources in Texas for recreational, hunting, and fishing opportunities. The Big Bend Ranch State Park complex comprises more than 300,000 acres in Presidio and Brewster Counties and operates as part of TPWD. This acreage makes up almost half the state park land in Texas, which includes more than 120 state parks, state historic sites, and state natural areas spread throughout the state.