The work, funded in part by the Watershed Restoration Initiative, is being planned and coordinated by members of the Southeastern Utah Riparian Partnership, including the Utah Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, Grand County, Plateau Restoration, Rim to Rim Restoration and The Nature Conservancy, among others.
The landscape approach crossing administrative boundaries of this project is made possible by the collaboration between agencies, offering unique opportunities to address emerging changes in the vegetation along the Colorado River, officials say.
Tamarisk trees throughout riparian areas have declined due to the repeated defoliation by the tamarisk leaf beetle (Diorhabda carinulata). These trees displace native vegetation and are a heavy fuel that contributes to high fire danger. They also degrade off-channel aquatic habitat. Work crews are removing declining and dead tamarisk to address these impacts, and to provide space for native plants to regenerate without active restoration work.
Grand County and retired USGS scientist Tim Graham have been monitoring beetle activity, tamarisk tree mortality and native plant regeneration in these declining tamarisk stands since 2007, and their work is helping to prioritize tamarisk removal sites for this project.
In addition to tamarisk removal, some work will focus on reducing Russian knapweed, which has spread significantly in recent years. Other work will include replanting and revegetation activities at locations where native plants are not regenerating on their own. Rim to Rim Restoration has been monitoring vegetation response to tamarisk and Russian olive removal projects since 2007, and this work is also helping inform plans for these work sites, officials say. Approximately 30 sites from Westwater Canyon to the Potash boat ramp have been identified for restoration action during this project.
Work crews include the Utah Conservation Corps as well as other sawyers and contractors to masticate tamarisk debris in some areas. Workers may be on site for several weeks at a time for some of the larger projects areas, including:
• The mouth of Salt Wash (tamarisk removal).
• The large previously burned area below Goose Island (revegetation with long stem plantings, as well as seeding and other plantings).
• The riverbank along Wall Street (tamarisk removal).
• Throughout the project area, Russian olive and Siberian elm trees will be treated as a part of this project to prevent those trees from becoming more invasive in the wake of tamarisk decline.
Tamarisk beetle activity in the area prompted the formation of the partnership in 2006.
The partnership is comprised of local, state and federal agencies, businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals who work in riparian areas. The partnership meets twice a year to share information and provides networking opportunities to foster collaborative and interdisciplinary action to improve vegetation and habitat along the Colorado River and its tributaries in Utah.
The next full partnership meeting will be held Nov. 27.