What is the ERWP?

The Escalante River Watershed Partnership (ERWP) is a coalition of federal and state resource managing agencies, county and city governments, nonprofits, private interests, and research scientists who live and work near the Escalante River in south-central Utah. This diverse group of stakeholders shares the vision of restoring and maintaining a relatively intact and natural Escalante River and its associated watershed.

Where is the Escalante Watershed?

The Escalante River is a tributary of the Colorado River and was the last river of its size to be discovered in the 48 contiguous United States. It is formed by the merging of North and Birch Creeks near the town of Escalante in Garfield County, Utah. The river flows southeast for approximately 90 miles (145 km), gathering the waters of other tributaries along the way, before joining Lake Powell in Kane County.

How can I join or learn more about the ERWP?

The partnership is open to the public and anyone may participate. For more information please contact:

Jonathan Paklaian: 435.826.4737 | jonathan@gsenm.org; or
Linda Whitham: (435) 259-4629 | lwhitham@tnc.org

What specific projects is the partnership involved in?

The ERWP’s 10-year science-based action plan guides their efforts to restore the
functions and processes of a healthy watershed. Key goals, tactics, and projects include:

Woody Invasive Control: 10-year plan to significantly reduce the spread of Russian olive and tamarisk on both private and public lands in the watershed.

Active Restoration: Partners are restoring critical habitat by planting native trees and plants in areas where woody invasive vegetation has been removed.

Monitoring: A long-term monitoring program is providing feedback to land managers about the success of specific restoration tactics.

Beaver Assessments and Reintroduction: Partners are identifying suitable habitat for the reintroduction of beaver and assisting government agencies in transplanting beaver as appropriate.

Native Fish Habitat Restoration: Partners are identifying areas where native fish populations can be increased and expanded, improving riparian and stream channel habitat, increasing habitat connectivity for native fish, and educating local communities on the importance of native fish conservation.

Science & Research: Scientists are studying water quality and quantity issues, the
impacts of the tamarisk beetle and the effectiveness of invasive tree removal and
revegetation efforts.

Education & Awareness: Partners are communicating with the public about the
ecological values of the Escalante, working with private landowners as they restore their lands, and providing opportunities for individuals and private and public organizations to participate in volunteer monitoring and restoration projects.

Are there any scientific research and/or surveys going on in the area to better understand the watershed and its processes and functions?

Some current research projects taking place in the watershed include:

– Understanding the invasion process of Russian-olive within the Escalante River Watershed, by Michael Scott, John Spence, Pat Shafroth and Lindsay Reynolds

–2015 and 2016 Escalante River Legacy Trees Report by Melissa McMaster

– Hayden, A., Rittenour, T.M., 2010, Extending the record of arroyo cycles for the upper Escalante River, S. Utah using OSL and radiocarbon dating. Geological Society

– America Abstracts with Programs Vol. 42, No. 5

– Spring surveys and long-term site monitoring conducted by NPS and BLM (ongoing)

What does riparian restoration look like? What is the goal?

The goal is to bring riparian communities back to their natural status as it existed prior to the invasion of exotic woody plant species such as Russian olive and tamarisk. These species alter vegetation and river processes, including flooding, changes in habitat for native fish species, and loss of native cottonwood and willow stands. Restoration is aimed at removing invasive exotics and restoring natural flooding and biological processes to the system. This is done largely through passive restoration, where native species present in areas where exotic plant control has been completed will re-colonize and restore native habitat. The ecological processes and natural habitats vital for native species will return over time.

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