Upland Restoration

Since European-American settlement of the watershed in the 1870’s, land management practices and fire suppression have disrupted the natural wildfire intervals in several upland forested vegetation types including: pinyon pine-juniper, ponderosa pine, aspen, and mixed conifer. In doing so, much of the present-day forests are in decline and susceptible to large scale uncharacteristic wildfires. Wildfire modeling of the watershed shows that the ponderosa pine timber type has the highest potential for uncharacteristic wildfire. Large scale uncharacteristic wildfire(s) have the potential to cause major disruptions and negative impacts to the watershed and its important attributes (i.e. native fish habitat, culinary and irrigation water, etc.).

The Uplands Restoration Committee was created to examine and address the causes of decline in coverage, health, and resiliency of forests in the headwaters of the Escalante River Watershed. The goal of the committee is to improve upland vegetation habitat through site assessments, data gathering, restoration actions, monitoring, and maintenance.

Opportunities for much of the committees’ work centers on Dixie National Forest which encompasses almost all of the Escalante River watershed headwaters and high elevation uplands. For more information on the committee, contact Terry De Lay at terence.delay@usda.gov or at 435-826-5401.

Wildfire Mitigation

Since it has the greatest need, much of the current uplands restoration work is being conducted in the ponderosa pine timber type through a combination of mechanical fuels reduction and prescribed fire treatments. Current projects being implemented on the Forest include Stump Springs, Upper Valley, Main Canyon, Hungry Creek Farm Bill, and Pretty Tree Bench.

The Dixie National Forest is currently working on the Hungry Creek environmental analysis of 100,000 acres of uplands restoration within the watershed. Containing the two primary headwater watersheds, North Creek and Pine Creek, the project is looking to reduce the chances of uncharacteristic wildfire impacting this area. Along with native populations of Colorado River Cutthroat trout, the two watersheds provide the primary source of both culinary and irrigation water to the town of Escalante. Project is comprehensive in that it proposes to treat all four timber types identified for restoration with an emphasis on ponderosa pine and aspen types.

Research & Data Collection

The Uplands Restoration Committee through the Dixie National Forest is involved with an effort by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) and the Nature Conservancy in using their Landscape Conservation Forecasting model to look at existing vegetation versus desired vegetation conditions across the entire Escalante Headwaters and Aquarius Plateau. UDWR provide initial funding for the two-year analysis which was started during the spring of 2021. Modeling will further help in identifying priority areas for upland restoration treatments.