A thousand invasives removed at Blue Hole Cienega

An estimated 1085 mostly Russian olive plants were removed during the Russian Olive Removal Event held Oct. 21-22, 2011 at the Blue Hole Cienega Nature Preserve. The preserve lies within the city limits of Santa Rosa. A total of 18 people participated in the 2-day event on the 116-acre preserve. The plants removed included small trees, saplings, sprouts and seedlings. Although Russian olive was the primary exotic targeted for removal, several sprouting clumps of salt cedar and about 75 salt cedar seedlings were removed.

Focus was primarily in some large Pecos Sunflower stands and in the southeast and southwest sides of the preserve.

The high success of this event was entirely due to two crews. The State Division of Forestry provided 9 people led by Botanist Bob Sivinski and the Native Plant Society of New Mexico provided an additional 9 volunteers organized by Jim McGrath. Bob and Jim wish to thank each of these volunteers for the effort they made on behalf of the federally threatened Pecos sunflower, the state endangered Wright’s thistle and the alkaline wetland and tall grass prairie embodied by the preserve. Each of these volunteers deserves recognition for their service. Participants from the Forestry Division included Shawn Beck, Carol Bada, Nick Smokovich, Dan Ware, Eugene Pino, Chris Romo, Arnie Friedt, and Mike Neathamer. NPSNM volunteers included Gary Runyan, Don Heinze, Doug Cone, Yvonne Chauvin, Phil Tonne, Dana Price, Jeremy McClain and Jennie Towne.

The invasive removal event was the latest management effort at the cienega. Besides controlling Russian olive and salt cedar infestations, management efforts on the cienega have included a prescribed burn in 2007. The trees, saplings, sprouts and seedlings just removed will provide fuel for another prescribed burn tentatively scheduled for January, 2012. Management efforts continue to improve the health of Pecos sunflower and Wright’s thistle populations as well as the alkaline wetland and tall grass prairie as a whole.

As a side note, some well known New Mexico birders (Matt Baumann, John Parmeter, Jerry Oldenettel) were also present on the cienega on this weekend. They reported the discovery of LeConte’s sparrow on the cienega. Le Conte’ sparrow is only reported in NM by birders about once or twice per year (Oldenettel 2011, personal communication). The unique prairie grassland mixed with marshy areas preserved at the cienega provides the special habitat required by LeConte’s sparrow.