| SUCCESS STORES |
WIND ENERGY DEVELOPMENT
DUFFY CREEK – Crested Wheatgrass Conversion to Sage-Grouse Habitat
Duffy Creek is located in southwest Douglas County, Washington, on land owned and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The area receives approximately 10-12 inches of annual precipitation, and the elevation ranges from 3,100 to 3,300 feet. Soils at the Duffy Creek restoration site are deep, silt loams formerly planted to dryland wheat, and prior to restoration, dominated by crested wheatgrass.
In 2001, the BLM funded a program to convert fields of crested wheatgrass in the Duffy Creek area to native vegetation, with Greater Sage-Grouse habitat as the primary focus. BFI Native Seeds, in conjunction with BLM Botany and Wildlife staff, developed a preliminary restoration plan and commenced wild collection in the area to develop locally native biotypes. Agronomic production of the Duffy Creek biotypes began on BFI’s Warden, Washington farm in 2002.
The site preparation process began in fall 2003, when each field was mowed with a large rotary mower. The following spring, the site was then sprayed with a moderate dose of glyphosate (Round-Up). By mid-summer, it was evident that the application rate was inadequate to completely control crested wheatgrass, and a sweep-chisel plow was used to complete this process. Following plowing, the site was harrowed to break up clumps and smooth the seed bed in preparation for fall planting.
By the summer of 2004, BFI had harvested enough seed from the Duffy Creek production plots to plant the project area (approx 100 acres). In November of 2004, seed was drilled into the prepped seedbed using a TruAx Flex II rangeland drill. The following grass species were planted: Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Idaho Fescue, Sandberg Bluegrass and Cusick’s Bluegrass. In the spring of 2005, there was good emergence of the seeded grasses, along with a flush of undesirable annual broadleaf weeds. The project area was subsequently sprayed with a mixture of MCPA and bromoxynil.
Through a combination of good growing conditions in the winter of 2004-05 and proactive weed management, a well-established stand of native grasses was present by the spring of 2006. In the fall of 2006 we inter-seeded native forb seeds that had been wild-collected from the area, using a broadcast seeder and culti-packer. Forb species planted included western yarrow, parsnipleaf buckwheat, longleaf phox, silky lupine, and big sagebrush.
Evaluation transects were established in 2006 and have been monitored annually. A small number of crested wheatgrass plants remain, but with the vigor of the native plantings, crested wheatgrass is expected to be completely displaced over time. The ultimate sign of success… by the fall of 2008, signs of sage-grouse activity on the newly planted site were readily observable.
Early Spring 2010 – Native bunchgrass-dominated stand.
SNIVELY BASIN – Cereal Rye Control and Native Plant Restoration
As the only natural spring between White Bluff Ferry and Yakima, Rattlesnake Spring in the Snively Basin was a historic stopping point on the wagon trail between Spokane and Yakima. Early settlers were attracted to the deep, rich soils of the basin, and despite an annual precipitation of 6-8 inches, large fields were cleared for grain production. During the late 1930’s, the area was taken over by the war department as part of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and agricultural production ceased. Weedy cereal rye (Secale cereal) subsequently invaded Snively Basin, particularly disturbed areas that had been farmed previously. Cereal rye is a winter annual grass that poses a serious economic threat to eastern Washington’s wheat producers, along with invading undisturbed habitat and displacing native species.
After a wildfire in 2007, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) managers attempted to curtail cereal rye growth by applying a variety of herbicides, including imazapic (Plateau or Journey) and glyphosate (Round-Up). The herbicides temporarily controlled the rye, but did not eradicate it. In the fall of 2009, former grain fields in the Snively Basin were seeded by BFI, using a TruAx Flex II rangeland drill, with a mixture of native species, including thickspike wheatgrass, Bluebunch wheatgrass, Sandberg’s bluegrass, western yarrow, Indian Ricegrass, and Lewis’ flax. Planted species emerged well in the Spring of 2010, but unfortunately, so did the cereal rye. As this rye is extremely competitive, development of the native seedlings would have been severely hindered, with complete failure possible on some portions of the field. In late May, BFI, under contract with USFWS, performed a wick-applied herbicide application to the cereal rye, which was taller than the planted native seedlings.
As of fall 2010, it appears that the seeded species are thriving under the canopy cover of chemically-killed cereal rye. Due to the intensity of the rye infestation and prolonged seed dormancy, we anticipate the need for two more years of aggressive management to ensure the fullest potential of this seeding.
Planted seedlings growing under cereal rye.
Wind Energy Development – Revegetation of Disturbed Habitat
With the expansion of wind energy projects in the Pacific Northwest, and Washington in particular, BFI is working with development and construction companies to protect wildlife habitat values, restore fragile plant communities, and prevent the spread of invasive species. Horizon Energy, Puget Sound Energy, and various construction firms have contracted with BFI to provide both appropriate plant material and seeding methods to repair the impacts of construction on lithosol plant communities, springs, and sagebrush-steppe.
For the Kittitas Valley Wind Project in Thorp, project guidelines required a diverse mix of grass and forb species for each of three soil types; loamy, lithosol, and rocky/lithosol complex. BFI provided seed that originated from within the same watershed as the project, and was adapted to the harsh growing conditions of this site.
BFI was also contracted to revegetate the site using our state-of-the art rangeland drills and broadcasters. BFI worked with project developers to develop a seeding methodology that combined multiple seeding techniques, in order to provide the best seed-soil contact and create optimal conditions for seedling germination and growth. Three seed mixes were applied at three separate seeding rates on over 15 miles of access roads and around crane pads. In addition, BFI worked with developers throughout the project to tailor a weed management plan to unforeseen weed flushes, and coordinated weed control with seeding.
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