Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) and saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) were introduced to the US in the 1800s. They escaped cultivation and are now established in more than one million acres of floodplains and riparian areas. Both species cause many documented ecological problems in riparian areas, and are projected to cause billions of dollars in economic losses over the next 50 years. While there are numerous techniques for removing these species, not all result in desired long-term effects, and there is little published information to guide treatment and restoration efforts in the upper Missouri River Watershed. Moreover, historically, little or no effort has been dedicated to the feasibility of utilizing these species as biomass for bioenergy development.
In 2010, the Missouri River Watershed Coalition (MRWC) and Center for Invasive Species Management (CISM) at Montana State University (MSU) were awarded a national CIG grant to develop innovative ideas for managing Russian olive and saltcedar throughout the Missouri River Watershed region. The four-year project had three primary objectives:
- Foster the adoption of innovative conservation approaches to invasive riparian plant management by monitoring mechanical and herbicide treatment and control sites infested with Russian olive and saltcedar for short- and long-term ecological changes, riparian system health and function, environmental protection, and natural resource enhancement.
- Investigate and demonstrate the use of innovative bioenergy technologies that promote the utilization of invasive plant biomass as a fuel source.
- Utilize MSU’s and the Coalition’s management and communications infrastructure and networks to coordinate all components of the project, and transfer project findings, products, and technologies to a broad range of regional stakeholders, including the private sector and NRCS.
States Involved: Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota, Colorado, Kansas
Timeline: September 2010 – September 2014
Tracy Sterling, CIG Project Principal Investigator (2013–2014); Professor of Weed Science and Department Head, Land Resources and Environmental Sciences Department, Montana State University
Scott Bockness, CIG Project Leader (2010–2014), Center for Invasive Species Management, Montana State University
Elizabeth Galli-Noble, CIG Project Principal Investigator (2010-2013) and CIG Project Closeout Manager (2014); Director, Center for Invasive Species Management, Montana State University (2008–2013); Owner, Galli-Noble Consulting (2014)
Emily Rindos, CIG Project Technology Transfer and Communications Leader (2010–2014); Assistant Director, Center for Invasive Species Management, Montana State University
Jack Alexander, President and Senior Resource Specialist, Synergy Resource Solutions, Inc.
Amy Ganguli, CIG Project Field Technical Leader for Synergy Resource Solutions, Inc.; Assistant Professor of Range Science, Department of Animal and Range Sciences, New Mexico State University (2012–2014); Assistant Professor of Range Science, School of Natural Resources, North Dakota State University (2009–2012)
The MRWC Executive Committee (along with the Project PI) provided technical and fiscal oversight for the project. Executive Committee members also provided direct support to the Project Field Leader by assisting with:
- Selecting herbicide treatment and control monitoring sites
- Collecting of biomass samples for testing
- Acquisitioning and testing of biomass conversion equipment
- Arranging and participating in outreach and education presentations to stakeholder groups across the region.
The MRWC states also committed to monitoring the treatment sites well into the future.
- Missouri River Watershed Coalition
- Center for Invasive Species Management, Montana State University
- Private landowners and producers
- Private sector and industry
- Local, state, and federal governments.
- Federal NRCS–CIG award: $1 million
- State match (Montana and Wyoming): $1 million.