The Native Fish and Wildlife Committee is a joint working group of state and federal agencies formed to highlight wildlife conservation projects within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The goal of the committee is to identify projects where collaboration amongst agencies would benefit wildlife and habitats. Committee members include The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, The National Park Service, and Trout Unlimited. For questions or to get involved, contact:
Erik Woodhouse, Native Aquatics Biologist, Utah Division of Wildlife, firstname.lastname@example.org
Native Fish Species
Roundtail Chub, Bluehead Sucker, and Flannelmouth Sucker, are conservation species that inhabit the Escalante River in Southern Utah. Population declines due to habitat loss, water development and non-native fish introductions have prompted the implementation of a conservation agreement and strategy to reduce threats that would endanger these species. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) has been monitoring these fish species populations in the Escalante River Basin since 2009. The UDWR monitors these fish every other year in the Escalante River. The goal of monitoring is to track changes in populations and learn about the species, as well as monitor fish population response to conservation projects, like Russian Olive removal by the Escalante River Watershed Partnership.
In addition to monitoring, the UDWR has made an effort to map the distribution of these fish in the Escalante River downstream to Lake Powell as well as major tributaries.
National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Project
The Escalante River Basin in Utah is home to many unique wildlife and plant species found only on the Colorado Plateau. These species have evolved over millions of years to adapt to the harsh conditions of the desert. Through time these native species of plants and animals have thrived and created a balanced ecosystem which they call home. The introduction of non-native fish and plant species has threatened this balance. To address the threats posed to native fish and riparian plant populations in the Escalante River Basin by introduced species, a joint project between the UDWR and Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) was established with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through the Bring Back the Natives Grant. Objectives of the collaborative project include 1) monitoring and removal of non-native fish species in the Escalante River Basin, 2) removal of tamarisk and Russian olive re-growth from riparian habitat (Figure 2,3), and 3) enhancing native fish habitat in the Escalante River by removing of invasive trees and adding debris to the stream. This project is slated to run from spring 2021 to summer 2022.
In addition to non-native fish removal, GSEP will remove approximately 12 acres of nonnative trees. This will improve riparian habitat, increase plant diversity, and add to stream habitat for native fish. This project fits well into the ERWP’s Woody Invasive Control Plan, and the ERWP’s Monitoring and Maintenance Plan. In 2019, the ERWP reached the milestone of removing Russian olives from all public land. Much work for maintaining this area free of Russian olives remains, but GSEP now has a tried-and-true framework for this work. Beginning in 2021, GSEP plans to expand these methods to tamarisk removal.