The upper basin of the Brazos River again will see aquatic vegetation treatment as continued efforts unfold to eliminate an invasive plant. In this fight, area landowners can lend a hand.
Roughly 2,800 acres of land bordering the Brazos River will be spot treated via helicopter for a Saltcedar infestation upstream of Possum Kingdom Lake. Treatment will occur on private properties identified by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department after signed permission forms have been obtained. The efforts are of no cost to landowners and TPWD continues to reach out to those in the area in hopes of expanding its reach and filling in gaps in treatment coverage. Actual acreage will depend on the success of outreach efforts, according to TPWD.
Landowner partners are critical.
Saltcedar, also called tamarisk, is not native to Texas and has invaded millions of acres of the Southwest, according to the TPWD.
It got its name because it oozes salt from its leaves, according to the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health.
Growing in dense thickets across river floodplains, Saltcedar can consume large quantities of water and reduce water availability. It can trap sediment and alter the shape of a river. It also provides little nutritional value for livestock and other grazers and can block access to water, according to TPWD.
Targeting this infestation, the TPWD uses an aerial herbicide application with aquatic-approved formulation. It’s possible those in the area of Possum Kingdom Lake will see the helicopters. Pilots will take care to avoid cottonwoods and other large trees and non-target plants, such as willows or plums, as much as possible, according to TPWD.
Last year the BRA joined the TPWD Salt Cedar Management Program on the Upper Brazos River. TPWD treated undeveloped BRA property on the river before it enters the main body of Possum Kingdom Lake, said Tiffany Malzahn, BRA environmental and compliance manager. Salt Cedar has been attributed as a cause of flooding in the Graham area above Possum Kingdom Lake due to its dense thickets constricting the river’s natural channel, Malzahn said.
TPWD has notified BRA that they will be performing a second application on the BRA property treated last year, she said.
TPWD has partnered with agencies and landowners since 2015 to manage Saltcedar in the Brazos River headwaters region.
• Since 2016, 13,886 acres of invasive Saltcedar have been treated on nearly 100 ranches along rivers and major creeks in the upper Brazos River basin, according to TPWD.
• Sixty landowners are participating in large-scale efforts to manage Saltcedar in the Upper Brazos River watershed and improve habitat for fish and wildlife.
Saltcedar plants are spreading shrubs or small trees, five to 20-feet tall with slender branches and pink to white flowers, according to TexasInvasives.org. Long roots allow them to interfere with natural aquatic systems, monopolizing limited sources of moisture, according to the organization.
Each flower can produce thousands of seeds, which are then carried by the wind and can germinate within 24 hours of detecting moisture, according to the Texas Invasive Species Institute.
And according to the Texas Invasive Species Institute:
“As an aggressive habitat generalist, the saltcedar is able to grow in conditions of high salinity, submergence, or drought. The saltcedar has been known to replace cottonwoods, willows, and other riparian vegetation from their native habitats.”
It was introduced to the United States in the 1800s as an ornamental plant for landscaping, according to the group. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that it was considered a serious threat.
Controlling it over the long term requires an integrated management approach that involves more than one control method, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report.
For more information on the TPWD program and how to take part in the program as a landowner, email Brazos.Saltcedar@tpwd.texas.gov. And, check out this video from TPWD showing Saltcedar treatment along the Brazos River.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has recommended ways for landowners and homeowners to put a halt to Saltcedar. Those can be viewed here.
Controlling Saltcedar, however, is not a one-time job.