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Southeast Utah Riparian Partnership
The Southeast Utah Riparian Partnership formed in March of 2006 to coordinate restoration efforts along the Colorado River and its tributaries. The Partnership is comprised of local, state, and federal agencies; businesses; non-profit organizations; and individuals committed to restoring, protecting and maintaining a healthy riparian ecosystem in Utah’s Colorado River watershed.
Since the late 19th century, riverine ecosystems throughout much of western North America have been altered through the introduction of nonnative plant and fish species, water withdrawals, flow regulation by dams, and many other human activities. Riparian vegetation in the project area currently is undergoing rapid change as extensive stands of nonnative tamarisk (Tamarix spp., the dominant woody plant in the river corridors) are being impacted by expanding populations of the tamarisk leaf beetle (Diorhabda carinulata) which was first released in this region in 2004. Rapid changes in tamarisk populations, associated changes in geomorphic conditions and plant community characteristics (including an influx of additional exotic plant species such as Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), and increasing uncertainty about effects of climate change and societal water demands on future flow regimes have resulted in heightened concern about how to most effectively protect or restore resource values along our river corridors.
The mission of the Southeast Utah Riparian Partnership is to restore, protect and maintain a healthy riparian ecosystem in Utah’s Colorado River watershed. We accomplish our mission by sharing information and providing networking opportunities in a way that fosters collaborative and interdisciplinary action in research, planning, monitoring, and on the ground implementation efforts that result in a positive change in riparian communities in our region.
Bureau of Land Management
City of Moab
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Grand Canyon Trust
Grand Conservation District
National Park Service
National Wild Turkey Federation
Plateau Restoration, Inc.
Red River Canoe Company
Rim to Rim Restoration
San Juan County
The Nature Conservancy
Town of Castle Valley
Utah Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands
Utah Department of Transportation
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
U.S. Geological Survey
Utah State University Extension
Utah Trust Lands Administration
In 2007 the Partnership completed a Woody Invasives Management Plan with the support of twenty agencies, non-profit organizations, and individuals.
Description of Work to be Accomplished
Science, Research, and Monitoring: Long term vegetation response monitoring is providing feedback about removal efforts and revegetation projects. Tamarisk beetle abundance and distribution, and the impact of the beetle on tamarisk, have been monitored every year since 2007. Recently, monitoring includes correlating beetle abundance in litter with previous distribution data, and noting the types of plants that are coming back beneath the defoliated tamarisk.
Data Management: Specific information on research, monitoring and restoration projects is tracked in a single database which is accessible to all partners.
Education and Awareness: One of the most important strengths of the Partnership is communication and education. We host workshops to share best practices and learn from each other. We work with landowners and elected officials to increase their understanding of the impacts of non-native plants on our lands and waterways.
Sources of Funding
The Partnership is a grassroots effort with many people volunteering their time and agencies and entities providing in-kind services. A substantial funding source for on the ground restoration is the Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative, a partnership-driven effort to conserve, restore and manage ecosystems in priority areas across the state to enhance Utah's:
- Wildlife and biological diversity
- Water quality and yield for all uses
- Opportunities for sustainable uses.
The Partnership worked with Grand and San Juan Counties to list both tamarisk and Russian olive as noxious weeds, encouraging broader control activities.
The Partnership has contracted with the USGS to provide science-based technical support in planning, coordinating, and implementing prioritized conservation actions that will achieve maximum benefits to riverine resources and societal values with limited financial and human resources.
Since its inception, Partnership members have completed 654 projects, 9,000 acres of tamarisk and Russian olive treatments, resulting in improved riparian areas on over 4,500 acres. Restoration takes many treatments to be successful. Treatment acres reflect multiple projects on the same parcel of land, while the acres improved reflect the footprint of lands enhanced.
The Partnership covers two counties and more than 23,000 acres of riparian areas on a variety of rivers and streams. The diversity of our site is both a challenge and a benefit. Projects range from working on large order rivers such as the Colorado which runs through lands managed by both the BLM and NPS and Dolores with a significantly altered hydrologic regime to small streams such as Mill Creek and Castle Creek which run through numerous privately owned lands the towns of Moab and Castle Valley. Each watershed has its own set challenges. Some are inaccessible expect by boat; others are in Wilderness Study Areas. One issue common to all waterways is the invasion of secondary weeds such as Russian knapweed and/or Russian olive. Yet, the Partnership is successful because it provides a framework to work across political boundaries. Coordination and resource sharing among wildlife and land management agencies, organizations, scientists, and county weed departments is enhanced.
For more information on this partnership or to join restoration efforts, contact the SURP Co-Chairs:
Kara Dohrenwend - Wildland Scapes Nursery and Rim to Rim Restoration
Eli Tome - Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands