This fall and winter, multiple agencies in Grand County are coordinating work along the Colorado River to complete restoration projects.

The collaborative effort is on projects that are designed to increase native plant diversity and cover, improve recreational experiences, restore off-channel aquatic habitats and reduce the risk of fire. The work focuses on addressing the effects of tamarisk tree decline since the establishment of the tamarisk leaf beetle in the area in 2004.

Planning and coordination of the work is being done by members of the Southeast Utah Riparian Partnership, Utah Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Grand County, Plateau Restoration, Rim to Rim Restoration and The Nature Conservancy, among others.

The work is funded in part by the Watershed Restoration Initiative.

By collaborating, the multiple agencies provide unique opportunities to address emerging changes in the vegetation along the Colorado River.

Tamarisk trees throughout our riparian areas have declined due to the repeated defoliation by the tamarisk leaf beetle. These trees displace native vegetation and are a heavy fuel contributing to high fire danger. The trees also degrade off-channel aquatic habitats.

Work crews are removing declining and dead tamarisk to address these impacts, and to provide space for native plants to regenerate without active restoration work.

Grand County and retired USGS scientist Tim Graham have been monitoring beetle activity, tamarisk tree mortality and native plant regeneration in these declining tamarisk stands since 2007, and their work is helping prioritize tamarisk removal sites for this project.

In addition to tamarisk removal, some work will focus on reducing Russian knapweed, which has spread significantly in recent years. Other work will include replanting and re-vegetation activities at locations where native plants are not regenerating on their own.

Rim to Rim Restoration has been monitoring vegetation response to tamarisk and Russian olive removal projects since 2007, and this work is also helping inform plans for these work sites.  

Approximately 30 sites from Westwater Canyon to the Potash boat ramp have been identified for restoration action during this project.  Work crews include the Utah Conservation Corps as well as other sawyers and contractors to masticate tamarisk debris in some areas. Workers may be on site for several weeks at time for some of the larger projects areas, including the mouth of the Salt Wash, the previously burned area below Goose Island and the riverbank along Wall Street.

Declining tamarisk trees create fire risk and degrade aquatic habitats