Arizona State professor and ecologist Robert Ohmart once labeled Wyoming’s Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management Area and adjacent lands at the confluence of the Big Horn River and Shoshone River a “national treasure,” based on the large cottonwood and shrub communities within its floodplain that benefit wildlife.
The Audubon Society lists the Yellowtail as an important bird area because of its diverse bird species. Yellowtail includes nearly 600 acres of croplands near the community of Lovell in northwest Wyoming.
Invasive plant species threaten this area by replacing native vegetation, degrading wildlife habitat and reducing hunting. Tamarisk and Russian olive are a special concern to Yellowtail Area Coordinated Resource Management, a group aimed at addressing the invasive plants on Yellowtail and surrounding lands.
Wyoming’s Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust provided funding, along with NWTF’s Northern Plains Riparian Restoration Initiative and other groups, to help expand the Yellowtail project’s treatment area, said NWTF Regional Biologist Collin Smith.
The project began in 2003 with Russian olive tree and noxious weed control. Today, it continues through herbicide treatments of a 1,500-acre area consumed by the Big Fork Wildfire in 2013. Planting native tree and shrub species, including cottonwood, willow and buffaloberry, is helping.
Since 2003, over 1,800 acres of dense Russian olive and tamarisk have been treated. Treatments included mechanical removal and continue with herbicide applications.
“The Yellowtail project is somewhat of a hybrid of fire restoration and ongoing noxious weed control,” said Jerry Altermatt, a WGF terrestrial habitat biologist in Wyoming. “This is definitely not a project a person can declare finished and walk away from; but the benefits realized by sportsmen and wildlife are worth maintaining.”