Montana Audubon works at the local, state and national policy levels to protect our natural heritage.
Riparian areas are a small part of Montana, yet they are critical for wildlife. In fact, riparian cottonwood forests provide habitat for at least 150 of Montana’s bird species all or part of the year. One significant threat to this habitat is invasion by exotic plants, with Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) near the top of the list. In fact, Russian olives out-compete our native cottonwoods, and could eventually replace cottonwoods along our rivers and streams.
In order to combat this problem, in 2008 Montana Audubon and the Native Plant Society petitioned the Montana Dept. of Agriculture to list Russian olive as a noxious weed. We are pleased to report that after a lot of hard work—and several challenges—as of September, 2010, Russian olive can no longer be sold in the state of Montana. This victory should reduce the spread of this exotic plant—and help protect our important riparian areas.
Russian olive, a plant native to southern Europe and western Asia, has been planted in Montana as an ornamental, for windbreaks, erosion control, and wildlife enhancement purposes. This tree is invasive and it is taking over riparian ecosystems, displacing native cottonwoods and willows on such rivers as the Marias, Missouri, Yellowstone, and Big Horn. If we lose cottonwood habitat along our rivers and streams, an important part of Montana’s wildlife habitat will also be lost.
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