Inyo County Saltcedar Control Program
Rick Puskar, Manager
Seasonal Crew – Six employees
from October to March
Saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima) is a non-native invasive shrub that is established in the Owens Valley. Why do these shrubby plants need to be controlled? Though intentionally introduced from Europe and Asia into the U.S. in the late 1800’s, saltcedar has been expanding its range in the Owens Valley since the late 1960’s. In the valley, as elsewhere in the western U.S., this species does not thrive without human assistance. It benefits from disturbance in the form of dams, diversions, floods, fires, and water table fluctuations which stress native species and provide conditions that favor saltcedar.
Once established, saltcedar can out-compete stressed native plants and cover large areas of formerly native habitat. Though plants have pioneered new areas for eons, the pace of human assisted migrations can surpass the abilities of native plants, animals and insects to adapt or coexist competitively. The result is a less productive and less diverse environment. In riparian areas in the Southwest where this has occurred, entire ecosystems have been displaced or eliminated, flood and fire frequencies have risen, and species biodiversity has declined. To stem this spread, our goal is to gradually restore disturbed, weedy areas to a more stable natural state.
In 1997, the ICWD initiated a saltcedar control program. The program was made possible by funding provided by LADWP under the long-term water agreement. This funding provides $750,000 over the first three years of the program and $50,000 per year thereafter for maintenance.
The Saltcedar Program is responsible for controlling all saltcedar on LADWP lands within the Owens Valley. There are approximately 20,000 acres of saltcedar in the valley. The current level of funding available to the program does not allow for saltcedar control everywhere it occurs on Owens Valley LADWP land. Therefore, priority areas for saltcedar control in the Owens Valley include:
- The lower Owens River channel
- Outlying springs and seeps
- New infestations.
- Integrated Weed Management – We attempt to utilize all available tools, strategies, and land management practices to achieve invasive species control. Relying on only one technique or approach often results in temporary control.
- Cut Stump – The plant is cut as close to the ground as possible using a chainsaw or loppers. The cut stump is then immediately (w/in 15 min.) sprayed with diluted Garlon 4, a systemic herbicide, to prevent the vigorous resprouting that saltcedar is known for.
- Basal Bark – On plants with less than a 5 cm stem diameter, the lower 30 cm are sprayed with the Garlon mix resulting in a standing snag.
- Foliar spray – The same mix of Garlon 4 and vegetable oil are applied to resprouting cut stumps.
- Biocontrol – The introduction of a natural insect predator to Tamarisk species. In the Owens Valley, Chinese tamarisk leaf- eating beetles are being studied for this purpose. Prior to these studies, exhaustive testing for host-specificity has been completed.
- Monitoring – Regardless of the technique used, no job is complete without regular monitoring. It is often necessary to spray resprouting stumps two years after they were cut.
The Inyo County saltcedar field season is from September through March. Each winter we hire 4-6 seasonal employees to work outdoors in the Owens Valley. We’re outside most of the season in all types of weather and conditions. Chainsaw experience is not mandatory. Strength, adaptability, and teamwork are valued highly.
If interested, contact Rick Puskar at the Water Department, (760) 878-0001, before September of each year.