Grand Staircase-Escalante Symposium 2024

Ways of Understanding and Protecting Land and Water Resources in the Grand Staircase-Escalante Region March 21-23, 2024

Presentation video links are provided in the agenda below for each session.

Photo credit: ERWP
Photo credit: ERWP


Bring together land managers, Tribes, researchers, conservation groups and interested public to gain knowledge and discuss multiple perspectives on land and water, ecosystem management issues, and ways people engage with the landscape.

Geographic Focus

The landscape of the Grand Staircase-Escalante region, from the high plateaus of the Dixie National Forest and Bryce Canyon National Park down through the benchlands, valleys and canyons of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.


Day 1 (Thursday, March 21)

9:00 AM – Introductions (Videos available here)

  • Escalante River Watershed Partnership
  • Steve Feldgus (US Department of Interior, Deputy Assistant Secretary)
  • Max Early (Laguna Pueblo Tribe) – Stewardship of Nature through Indigenous Poetry and Song
    • Audio only

9:30 AM – Vegetation (Videos available here)

  • Carrie Cannon (Hualapai Department of Cultural Resources) and Jorigine Paya – An Ethnobotanical Perspective of Several Colorado Plateau Plants
  • Robert D’Andrea (Northern Arizona University) – Climate and human impact on vegetation and fire in an arid Colorado Plateau ecosystem in Western North America
  • Jason Williams (USDA-Agricultural Research Service) – Ecohydrologic Impacts of Pinyon and Juniper Encroachment on Sagebrush Rangelands
  • Jacqualine Grant (Grand Staircase Escalante Partners) & Autumn Gillard (Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah) – Development of a Paiute Native Plant Center


12:30 PM – Springs and Groundwater (Videos available here)

  • Max Taylor (Hopi Tribe) – Hopi Springs Restoration Project
  • Melissa Masbruch (US Geological Survey) – Hydrogeology 101 of the Escalante River Watershed: Sources, Sinks, and Flow Paths
  • Rhiannon Garrard (Bryce Canyon National Park) – Safeguarding Our Groundwater: Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Georgie Pongyesva (Hopi Tribe) – Springs from an Indigenous Perspective


2:00 PM – Stream and Riparian (Videos available here)

  • Lydia Joukowsky (Utah State University) & Rachel Nichols (Fishlake National Forest) – History, Principles of Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration (LTPBR) and Post-Assisted Log structures (PALs) in Fishlake National Forest
  • Lindsay Martindale (Wildlands Network) – Beaver Coexistence in the Modern Era
  • Cassie Mellon (BLM Utah) & Tess Webb (Colorado Natural Heritage Program) – The BLM AIM Strategy: Riparian and Wetland Monitoring and Assessment in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument


3:30 PM – Paleontology (Videos available here)

  • Joe Sertich (BLM) – Dinosaur Diversity of Laramidia’s Southern Frontier: New Discoveries from Utah’s Grand Staircase
  • Alan Titus (BLM) – Campanian tyrannosaur diversity of Laramidia; implications of new GSENM specimens
    • Alan Titus presented new paleontology research results; he requests that we not post his presentation until those findings are published.

Evening – Live Music: Innastate

Indigenous reggae music, straight from the desert southwest! Innastate is dedicated to creating community through the positive messages and energy expressed in their music. 

7pm at the Escalante Showhouse (50 W. Main St.)

Day 2 (Friday, March 22)

9:00 AM – Introductions (Videos available here)

  • Escalante River Watershed Partnership
  • Nada Culver (BLM, Principal Deputy Director)
  • Richard Graymountain
    • Audio only

9:15 AM – Art and Social Sciences (Videos available here)

  • Marsha Holland & Marietta Eaton – Historical Perspectives on Land and Water: The Southern Utah Oral History Project 
  • Autumn Gillard (Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah) – Oral Histories & Dark Skies
  • Tim Musso (La Sierra University) – Visual investigation as a tool for understanding and storytelling
  • Laura Walker (Southern Utah University) – Tapping into the Power of Awe in the Natural World


10:30 AM – Wildlife (Videos available here)

  • John Umek (Desert Research Institute) – Assessment of the Ecological Health of Spring Ecosystems
  • Coral Gardner (University of Arizona) & William Heyborne (Southern Utah University) – The Impact of Pinyon and Juniper Management on Reptile Communities of Southern Utah


11:45 AM – Stewardship and Engagement (Videos available here)

  • Marc Coles-Ritchie (BLM) – Science Research in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
  • Nathan Waggoner (Grand Staircase Regional Guides Association) – Guiding on Grand Staircase; the Past and Future
  • Kaitlin Martin (Grand Staircase Escalante Partners) – How To Make an Impact on Grand Staircase in 2024
  • Lena Bain (Grand Canyon Trust) – Successful Volunteer Facilitation Practices for Any Setting


Field Trips 2:00 – 5:00 PM (approximate)

Plant and Ethnobotany walk led by Carrie Cannon and Marc Coles-Ritchie (a mile or two walk); Meet at Escalante Interagency Visitor Center (755 W. Main St.) 


Dinosaur track visit with paleontologist Alan Titus (very short walk); Meet at Escalante Interagency Visitor Center (755 W. Main St.). 

Evening Film – “Stewart Udall: The Politics of Beauty”

At Grand Staircase Escalante Partners office (530 W. Main St.)

Day 3 (Saturday, March 23)

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Culturally relevant plants for basket making, workshop by Richard Graymountain (max of 10 people); Meet at Grand Staircase Escalante Partners office (530 W. Main St.) 


Botany walk, led by Marc Coles-Ritchie and Max Taylor (a mile or two walk); Meet at Escalante Interagency Visitor Center (755 W. Main St.). 

This program has received funding from Utah Humanities. Utah Humanities (UH) empowers groups and individuals to improve their communities through active engagement in the humanities.