Since 2010, the Escalante River Watershed Partnership has been working with private landowners to help restore riparian areas through the removal of Russian olive and tamarisk and either passive or active re-vegetation. On privately owned land, removal and re-vegetation techniques vary depending on both the current condition and intended future use of the land. Many private landowners may prefer to use their land for grazing or agricultural production. Improved access, wildlife habitat, aesthetics, increased economic value or enhanced recreational opportunities may be additional goals.
Regardless of intended land uses, the impact of large-scale invasive tree removal requires careful planning and the development of site-specific strategies for removal, re-vegetation and rest. Success riparian restoration on private land can:
- Restore natural plant community balance;
- Enhance wildlife habitat;
- Improve forage accessibility, quality and quantity for domestic and wild animals;
- Decrease wildfire intensity;
- Restore vegetation to control erosion and sedimentation, improve water quality and enhance stream flow;
The key to long-term successful restoration lies with a landowner’s dedication to management that promotes the growth of desirable plants. Best management practices include:
- Annual removal of re-sprouts or re-growth of invasive species for at least 3 years depending on original infestation;
- Monitoring for and removal of secondary weeds;
- Two to three years of grazing rest to allow native vegetation, planted or naturally recruited, to establish in disturbed areas;
- For future riparian pastures, develop a successful grazing management plan which includes:
- Rotation of grazing locations annually and avoid grazing the same place at the same time year after year.
- Allow time for plant development before or plant recovery after the grazing period.
- Move animals before too much defoliation occurs, which will accelerate plant recovery.
- Provide for livestock needs throughout the year, including water in varied locations as natural sources change.
- Manage for maintenance or improvement of the physical functionality of riparian areas by protecting upland areas as well.
In 2013 a working group for private lands restoration was developed to help landowners improve their riparian areas. This working group consists of a representative from Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, and to the extent that an agricultural component is involved, Natural Resources Conservation Service. The goals of the working group are to:
- Educate, on the individual and community level, landowners regarding the economic and environmental cost of woody invasive species and other noxious weeds;
- Provide education and information regarding treatment options for woody invasive species;
- Identify and contact private landowners to ascertain level of interest in restoration, desired outcome of treatment, ability to ensure long-term success of treatment and prevention of future infestations;
- Engage conservation planners for restoration planning and implementation – using best management practices for landowners’ desired outcome, and;
- Encourage restoration partnership and cost-share opportunities through landowner participation with the State of Utah Grazing Improvement Program, Agriculture Resource Development Loans and the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program and/or the Utah Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Initiative.
Partners in this group have divided tasks as follows:
Grand Staircase Escalante Partners: Provides education and outreach to specific landowners, performs initial site evaluation, documents landowner’s desired outcome and intended future use, ascertains current use, gauges the landowner’s level of interest, ability to adapt management to allow for recovery after removal and ability to maintain restoration, and explains funding and technical partnership options for restoration, including landowner contribution. GSEP also performs retreatment and ongoing training to landowners regarding maintenance of treated areas. For more information about restoration in the watershed, call Sue Fearon on her cell at 435-691-3037 or in the office at 435-826-4737.
USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program: Provides financial and technical assistance for restoration, assists in developing treatment and restoration plan, conducts outreach and education for USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife programs, addresses wildlife habitat questions and concerns. For information about the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program please call Wildlife Biologist, Clint Wirick in his Richfield office at 435-896-6441 ext. 141 or on his cell at 435-452-1856.
Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands: Assists in developing treatment and restoration plan, provides coordination between landowner and contractor performing removal, addresses specific question and concerns regarding the technical aspects of RO removal and expectations for recovery.
Natural Resources Conservation Service: Provides technical and financial assistance to eligible private landowners for practices associated with the creation of riparian forest buffers such as brush management, access control, prescribed grazing and herbaceous and tree plantings. NRCS planners and technicians work with individuals to develop conservation plans that are site-specific and achievable. For more information about NRCS programs please contact District Conservationist Kristi Hatch Westwood at 435-676-8021 ext. 106 at the Panguitch NRCS office, or call Curtis Roundy, Farm Bill biologist at 435-691-0289.
“Already the cottonwood trees, willows and native grasses are breathing freer and growing. Our sincere thank you for your help in removing these invasive trees and allowing everyone who hikes down this way to see the original natural beauty of the canyon” —Doug and Beverly Howland—Calf Creek Ranch
Resources for more information:
Is it Silverleaf Buffaloberry or Russian olive? This flyer will help you understand the difference. Silverleaf_VS_RO
This handout provides techniques for recognizing and for controlling Russian olive re-sprouts. Controlling Russian Olive Seedlings
Here is a form for monitoring. This form was developed for the annual retreatment of Russian olive but can be used to track any weeds. Monitor Form
Kevin Heaton, Garfield Countys USU Extension Agent, collaborated with others on Managing Riparian Pastures. Managing Riparian Pastures
Regional Recommendations for Planting for Wild Turkey by the National Wild Turkey Federation: For those who enjoy the local wild turkeys, here is some information on preferred food source. Turkey Bulletin
Here is a comprehensive guide to revegetation after Russian olive removal. Escalante Revegetation Plan