CAMP GUERNSEY JOINT TRAINING CENTER, Wyo. – The natural resource team at Camp Guernsey celebrated Earth Day by spending the day in the great outdoors and helping the ecosystem surrounding Camp Guernsey.
A crew, consisting of Wyoming Military Department Natural Resource Manager Amanda Thimmayya, Natural Resource Specialists Shane Buchholz and Cassie Wells, and Mrs. Tasha Troesh transported roughly 450 willows from areas around the North Platte River and into the Warm Springs area in the South Training Area.
Willows help the ecosystem, because they can reduce erosion and stop sediment washed from upstream during flooding events. The last major flooding to impact the area was in May 2014, which went down the Warms Spring drainage.
“The flood removed a lot of the vegetation in the area, depositing sand and other sediment from upstream and washed that sediment into the North Platte River,” said Thimmayya.
Willows also make a good food source for many wildlife species. In 2017, a natural resource team planted around 200 willows in Warm Springs. During the Earth Day planting, the team noticed many willows survived and were well rooted into the soil, and it was evident that they were being grazed on by cattle and deer in the area.
On the flip side, other plant species can cause issues for the ecosystem. Junipers are a native species to the area, and historically, wildland fires would prevent junipers from taking over areas similar to Warm Springs. However; because of fire suppression, junipers are taking hold in the area, threatening many sagebrush shrub systems and changing the ecosystem, a process called juniper encroachment.
“We plan to remove all of the juniper trees, because they use a lot of water and can cause small streams to dry up, degrading the ecosystem,” said Thimmayya.
In the next five years, Thimmayya expects to see sections of the stream completely filled with willows. “We will be conducting several more willow plantings,” she said.