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Curlew National Grassland, 2017

Background: A team of university and USDA Forest Service employees, biologists, soil scientists, geneticists, hydrologists, botanists, and plant physiologists, are using biochar to enhance and restore critical monarch butterfly and greater sage-grouse habitat on the Curlew National Grassland in Idaho. Currently, riparian areas near the National Grassland are being overwhelmed by the fast-growing, water-hungry Russian-olive. This tree, which was planted widely across the west in the 1940's, was once thought to be a useful shelterbelt, windbreak, and ornamental species. Dense stands of Russian-olive trees create thorny, monoculture thickets that prevent native tree and shrub species from becoming established, and provide perches for raptors hunting for sage-grouse chicks.

Objective: The objectives of this project are to increase critical monarch butterfly and greater sage-grouse habitat in an area where Russian-olive trees have overwhelmed the landscape. Additionally, we aim to create a value-added product from this invasive tree, and restore soil resilience by adding biochar. In 2018 the biochar created from the removed Russian-olive trees was incorporated back into critical areas on the National Grassland to promote the growth of native vegetation where they are in short supply. The soil is being monitored for changes in soil organic matter, carbon, and water holding capacity.

Partners: Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Curlew National Grassland, Amaron Energy, Utah Biomass Resources Group