The Roundup -

Russian Olive Removal and Restoration Workshop set for Sept. 12-13 in Miles City


We don’t often think of trees as weeds or “conflict” species, particularly in this part of the country, but Russian olive’s rapid spread along the Yellowstone River and other riparian areas in recent years, has made it a pariah to many. Its dense canopy has displaced many native plants along the river and its long and prolific thorns have regularly impeded access to the water’s edge by wildlife, livestock and recreationalists, alike.

For others, the arrival of this cold-hardy, deep-rooted, ornamental tree to the U.S. in the late 1800s, proved a godsend for conservation programs in semi-arid areas, particularly in the northern plains. Today it remains a favorite of many rural residents in eastern Montana and western North Dakota, where it is commonly found in farm and ranch shelterbelts/tree rows, where other trees have proven difficult if not impossible to grow. Proponents of the tree also point to the shelter and food it provides local wildlife, particularly pheasants and other birds feeding on its seeds.

The Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of the tree and the need to address its increasingly invasive potential along rivers and streams led to the establishment of a long-term, multi-agency study at the USDA-ARS Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory in Miles City, MT in 2011. The researchers were tasked with identifying options for successfully removing the tree along the river bottom, but also examining the impacts of that removal on local wildlife, insect diversity and soil health. Five years into that effort, researchers are sharing what they’ve learned so far in a special Russian Olive Removal and Restoration Workshop to be held September 12-13 at the Miles City, MT lab.

This event provides the public an opportunity to learn about successful removal and restoration techniques developed under the study, as well as learning more about additional, related research still underway, organizers said.

The event is being sponsored by USDA-ARS in Miles City, the Northern Great Plains Section of the Society for Range Management, and the Miles City Chamber of Commerce. Five SRM education credits are available for those participating. Pesticide points are still pending.

The activities begin Monday, September 12 at 1 pm with a series of afternoon talks on Russian olive and the research project, ending with a BBQ supper at 6 pm.

Speakers and topics include:

Peter Lesica, Botanist, author and affiliate faculty at the University of Montana, “History and Ecology of Russian Olive in Montana”

Sharlene Sing, Research Entomologist, U.S. Forest Service ~ “Russian Olive and Wildlife”

Melissa Maggio-Kassner, Montana State Biocontrol Coordinator ~ “Application of Biocontrol for Rangeland Weeds”

Erin Espeland, Research Plant Ecologist, USDA-ARS, Sidney, MT ~ “Russian Olive Removal and Restoration”

The workshop continues Tuesday morning, September 13, at 8 am with a field tour of removal and restoration research sites as well as demonstrations of the following: Russian olive removal with a tree shear, cottonwood planting and transplanting of other trees and shrubs. Participants will also view recovery results in study plots five years after successful removal of Russian olive. The workshop concludes Tuesday at noon.

There is a $10 registration fee to cover the cost of the Monday meal. Those interested are asked to register for the event by Wednesday, Sept. 7, if possible, but should feel free to inquire about possible registration after that deadline as well.

To register, contact Jennifer Muscha, at 406-874-8223 or, or mail your name(s), address, organization (if applicable) and the number of people attending to Jennifer Muscha at 2218 Kinsey Rd., Miles City, MT 59301, along with a check made out to “Northern Great Plains Section” at $10 per person.

Also, please feel free to contact Jennifer with any other questions regarding the workshop.


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