Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Two years ago the tribe purchased 330 acres South of Colusa, of which 250 acres are wetlands and 50 acres of upland habitat. The current state of the property at the time of purchase wasn't exactly ideal, as the lack of management had allowed the wetland to become over grown by the undesirable plant species and was not producing the high quality feed that the wintering migratory game birds need!
Last spring and summer I took it upon myself to see what proper water management would do for the property and was able to drown out quite a few of the undesirable plant species while increaseing seed production of watergrass and smart weed. The end result was excellent and the seed production banner, lots of feed for the waterfowl and an increase in the seed bank for future years. All in all I felt as if it was a huge step in the right direction.
Following the end of the season last January I applied for a permit through the local NRCS office and was granted an early water release on the largest wetland unit (185 acres). While this would mean no seed production for this year it would allow me to dry up the wetland so that I could get in there and try to eradicate the ever growing cattail population that was choking out the wetland. I had several ideas that I thought would work, the first being an over water burn. I got the blessing from the local air quality office and set out to try and burn the standing catails, so that I could minimize the ammount of vegatation that would have to be dealt with when the wetland dried up. I tried to burn 3 or 4 different days but the fire just wouldn't carry so I scratched that idea and came up with a new one. When the wetland was dry enough to get equipment on I took our 8520 John Deere tractor and our 20' Rears rice chopper down there and began the long task of mowing up all of the cattail stands. This took about 10 days and several thousand dollars in diesel fuel, as the catails were super thick and the mowing was very slow going, as I had to stop every couple hours and blow out the radiator on the tractor so it did not over heat. Once I had the catails all on the ground I talked with air quality and got the permission to start burning. The burning was to be done in a 4-5 day time line as I could only burn so many acres a day, but the fire hit the ground and before long we had them all burnt and ready to start ground work. The first step was to go in and chisel all of the areas where the cattail stands were growing so that I could expose the roots to the elements, drying them out and killing the tubers. This also broke up the ground and allowed for a deep disking to further expose the roots as well as chop them up with the hopes of killing them. For this task I pulled out the Case 385 and the 17 foot Tatu stubble disc. We disced the catail stands in 2 different directions and then let them dry for a week before repeating the same process. In all we chiseled once (2 different directions) and then disced 3 times in several different directions. Through all of the excess heat and North wind we had this spring and summer it looks as if all the work has been effective and I am not seeing much in the way of cattails sprouting currently. My final step is to finish disc the areas that were treated prior and then pull a ring roller across the entire area to further smash the clods and make a nice seed bed for new growth.
I will complete the final dirt work next week and then fertilize all of the willow trees and spend a week transplanting round stem tules back into the wetland prior to starting the water. My hopes are to wipe out 75% or more of the cattails making the remainder of them easyer to treat in the following years. While the wetland doesn't look like much of a wetland right now I am confident that my timing is right and we should have a nice stand of water grass prior to the fall migration! Regardless this is something that had to be done and will improve the wetland in the long run. Next spring and summer will be spent working on the remaining 2 wetland units to try and eradicate the undesirable plant species in them.