Nearby, Moab resident Alice de Anguera attacked tamarisk and other vegetation with a shovel, helping clear a path along a fence where an irrigation line will go.
They joined 20 other volunteers on a blustery Friday morning, Nov. 9, for a wildlife habitat restoration project spearheaded by the Moab-based nonprofit organization Plateau Restoration. The hands-on event was part of the weekend’s fourth annual Moab River Rendezvous, which also included a river trip, lectures, films and a tour of Arches National Park.
Ed Adams of Montrose attended each day of the rendezvous. He was happy to get his hands dirty and work up a sweat to improve wildlife habitat.
“I don’t live here, but I spend a lot of time here,” he said. “It’s such a great spot.”
The rehab work has been underway for a couple of years on 67 acres along state Route 279 across from Intrepid Potash, which owns the property. Besides removing invasive tamarisk, past work involved cutting paths through vegetation so wildlife can reach the river.
Plans call for seeding the area, primarily with grasses but also with flowering plants.
“We’ve already seen an increase in rodent species and numbers of birds,” said Plateau Restoration founder and board president Michael Dean Smith. “I had seen no birds of prey here in two years and the other day I saw two. There are changes.”
He also spotted a bobcat on the acreage recently, he said.
Working on private land helps Plateau Restoration avoid the red tape often involved in projects on government property, allowing the work to move more swiftly, Smith said.
“With mine ownership, this is not going to be turned into condos or campgrounds,” added Tamsin McCormick, co-organizer of last weekend’s event.
Chelsea Nursery of Palisade, Colo., provided plants at a discount price for the event’s work party. The area is getting an infusion of grasses, Mormon tea, buckwheat, winter fat and other native species. About 9,000 plants have been ordered for next spring, Smith said.
Smith wants more flowering plants that will draw moths, butterflies and bees. The lack of pollinating insects has been evident lately, he said.
“In the past 10 years you haven’t seen the same floral displays in southeast Utah,” Smith said. “It all fits together.”
Students from Verde Valley High School, located about two hours north of Phoenix, Ariz., pitched in to help last week. They built fencing on Nov. 7 to keep cows off the acreage before joining the planting efforts Nov. 9.
The project has long-time partners, too, including the Grand County Weed Department; Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands; and the U.S. Forest Service.
The rehabilitation site is on Jackson Bottom near the Potash boat ramp, the launching point for Colorado River trips through Cataract Canyon.
Smith said this week that attendance at the Moab River Rendezvous has grown steadily over the years and includes a solid base of regulars.
“There are about 30 people from Idaho, Arizona, Texas, Colorado and Oregon who come every year,” he said.
The schedule of events expanded this year, Smith added. He credited the National Park Service for making several staff members available for an informational session at Arches National Park on the final day.
Smith said work is already underway on the 2013 River Rendezvous. Some presenters who couldn’t take part this year because of other commitments already have confirmed they will be involved next year, he said.
“We should be able to post who’s coming by the first of the year,” Smith said.
Also, an expanded series of educational river trips might begin as soon as February 2013, he said.