Wright Robinson of the Grand County Weed Department recently received The Utah Weed Control Association’s Biological Award for 2014 for his work with releasing the tamarisk leaf beetle to reduce the number of tamarisk trees along Grand County waterways. Robinson was presented with the award at the March 18 Grand County Council meeting.
Tim Higgs, supervisor for the county weed control department, accepted the award on Robinson’s behalf during the annual Utah Weed Control Association meeting in February in St. George. Wright was unable to attend because he was giving a presentation at the Tamarisk Coalition Conference in Grand Junction, Colo.
Wright started the tamarisk beetle bio-control project in Grand County in 2007 as a test project to help reduce the number of non-native tamarisk trees along the Colorado River in Grand County, according to Higgs.
“He did not know anything about bio-control of tamarisk with beetles. He began following the spread of tamarisk beetles and response of tamarisk plants that summer and continued his monitoring through 2012,” Higgs said. “In the summer of 2013 the focus of the tamarisk project shifted to a comprehensive mortality study at 80 sites across Grand County.”
Higgs said Wright also closely monitored the impacts of the tamarisk leaf beetle on other plant species.
“He did notice large numbers of beetle larva on greasewood at a couple of locations,” according to Higgs. “We watched these plants closely and realized there was little to no feeding taking place on them.”
Higgs said Wright’s work has provided useful data about the effectiveness of the beetle project, and has also helped quell concerns from property owners and others in Grand County and across the state.
“Soon after the release of beetles in Grand County people within Utah and beyond were saying negative things about the releases. Because of the work Wright and others have done, the impact that the beetles have had in meeting our goal of controlling the spread of invasive tamarisk plants has changed the attitudes of many of them,” Higgs said. “We are now hearing many more positive comments than negative ones. Some large landholders actually want to let the beetles do the work for them in remote areas.”
Wright has given 15 presentations about his work to professional and general audiences in places such as Denver, Grand Junction, Reno, Albuquerque, Price and Moab, Higgs said. He is currently working with three professors at the University of Denver to publish the results of the data that has been collected by the Grand County Weed Department.
Wright has also worked some on a gall midge bio-control project with Russian knapweed. He will be working more this year with all of county’s biological control agents, Higgs said.
Wright will give a public presentation about the effectiveness of the beetles in controlling tamarisk at the Moab Information Center, located at the corner of Main and Center streets, on April 10, at 7 p.m.