Canyon Country Youth Corps, Western Colorado Conservation Corps and the Southwest Conservation Corps worked with the Dolores River Restoration Partnership to restore riparian habitat along the Colorado and Dolores rivers in March. [Photo courtesy Dolores River Restoration Partnership]

Twenty-plus youth corps crew members participated in a classroom and field training to restore the riparian habitat along the Dolores River between March 26 and 29.

The Dolores River Restoration Partnership recently facilitated the four-day program for the Canyon Country Youth Corps, Western Colorado Conservation Corps, and Southwest Conservation Corps.

The Bureau of Land Management presented an invasive species and noxious weeds classroom session, which was then followed by four days of education and hands-on field work of the removal and treatment of tamarisk, or salt cedar, along the BLM-managed section of the Colorado River known as Ruby/Horsethief.

Tamarisk, most notably, has been shown to displace native riparian vegetation therefore decreasing biodiversity, block access to streams for wildlife and recreation, and increase the intensity and frequency of wildfire.

The youth corps crew members floated five rafts full of gear and supplies to the remote location where they practiced native and invasive plant species identification, chainsaw techniques, and herbicide application.

Crew members learned techniques used to eradicate tamarisk while leaving native species like cottonwoods, rabbitbrush, and willow intact. Safety and proper technique were of the utmost importance as members developed their chainsaw and herbicide application skills, and practiced implementation of various treatment prescriptions as they prepared for their season at various other worksites along the Dolores River.

Formed in 2008, the Dolores River Restoration Partnership is a public-private collaboration of local, state, and federal agencies, universities, not-for-profit organizations, landowners, foundations, and citizen volunteers that share a common set of goals and principles for restoring the riparian habitat of the Dolores River.

In addition to ecological goals, this multi-year on-going partnership has social goals as well. Through employing youth corps to carry out the treatment prescriptions, the partnership supports crew members gaining both job and life skills, as well as preparing them to be the next generation of stewards.

The project area is from McPhee Reservoir to the confluence with the Colorado River and covers more than 174 river miles. The Dolores River was selected because there are rare, riverside plant communities and a need for restoration to help native plant and wildlife populations. The river is a significant tributary to the Colorado River and collaborative conservation is demonstrated on this large-scale landscape.