War with the Russian Olive
Progress 2008
by Bill Wolverton

Weeds Progress — 2008
Escalante Subdistrict, Glen Canyon NRA

Following is the progress that was made on Russian Olive and Tamarisk in the Escalante Subdistrict of Glen Canyon NRA in 2008. All work was done by Escalante Ranger Bill Wolverton except as noted.

Russian Olive slash left from last fall burned below Ringtail Canyon, much chain sawing done, miscellaneous cleanup of scattered slash, one known Russian Olive cut in Ringtail Canyon

Wilderness Volunteers trip, 4/13-19, cleared approx. ½ mile of Russian Olive, Utah Backcountry Volunteers cleared another ½ mile 4/27-5/3.

Small remnant stand of Tamarisk on reservoir mudflat on right side of Escalante river just below Coyote Gulch removed. This was all that remained of a large forest of Tamarisk on reservoir mudflat after the huge flood of October 6, 2006 washed the rest of it away. It was removed because it was far above the river, as well as above the normal full pool level of the reservoir, and therefore would never get re-established again without another overfilling event as occurred in 1983.

Most remaining Tamarisk removed from the main stem of Choprock Canyon, with the help of two VIPs. All that remains is about ½ mile in the main canyon above all of the forks, and one badly knocked over clump a short distance up the north fork. Nothing has been done in the far upper reaches of the southernmost fork. A little is known to be present in one place, but access is rather difficult, and the rest has not been surveyed.

University of Wisconsin Alternative Breaks program group cleared 0.3 miles of Russian Olive, 5/21–28

Utah Conservation Corps cleared approx. 1/8 mile of Russian Olive 8/11–5. Follow up done on lower 14 miles of Escalante River, Swan Neck Bend to Coyote Gulch, with help from four individual volunteers. Only 97 new starts found, compared to 644 new ones on last trip two years previously. The nearest Russian Olive seed source to this part of the river is now 22 miles upstream, and it seems reasonable to expect that new starts should remain minimal in the future. It should not be necessary to check this section of the river again for another three years, but it will definitely have to be done. A follow up trip was done in Coyote Gulch as part of this same trip, with a minor number of new or re–growth Tamarisks, one old Tamarisk, and one new Russian Olive found and cut. More follow up was done by the same group in the section of river most recently cleared of Russian Olive in the vicinity of Ringtail Canyon.

Russian Olive follow up completed, over the course of three trips, from ½ mile below 25 Mile Wash to one mile above it. Wilderness Volunteers completed much catch up of re–growth and things missed and/or poorly done in the vicinity of Ringtail and below, plus advanced the initial clearing about 1/8 mile, 9/7–13. Utah Backcountry Volunteers completed initial clearing of about ¼ mile, reaching the entrance to Neon on river left and coming to within about 1/8 mile of it on river right. Chain sawing was completed to within about mile of Neon, 9/28–10/4.

More follow up completed, with the help of one VIP, from one mile above 25 Mile Wash to two miles above it, and another trip completed follow up to two miles below Neon.

• Summary of Progress •

This was a very difficult, trying year, and progress up the river was a very disappointing 1.8 miles, despite having more volunteer help than in any previous year. There were a total of 5 week long volunteer trips, with varying numbers of participants, a Utah Conservation Corps trip, and one three day weekend trip, plus several other trips either alone or with up to four individual volunteers. A total of 2510 Volunteer hours were contributed in FY 2008, the majority in the actual calendar year. There were several reasons for the slow progress. The most significant was the much greater density of Russian Olive encountered, far more than any found previously. This was partly due to the river bottom being much wider than in any place downstream, leading to it having spread away from the river. There were also many places where the density along the river banks was far greater than usual.

Second was the after effects of the huge flood of October 6, 2006. This flood knocked over most of the Russian Olive trees through this section and left them packed full of debris. It either broke them off or ruptured the roots so that they initially did not show any signs of life. This led to many of them being passed over because there was no apparent reason to cut them. Then they began to come back to life, and it became necessary to go back and cut them. Because they were so badly knocked over it was very difficult to cut them, and, in many cases, the only thing that could be done was to cut segments out of the trunks in order to expose the stump for treatment with Garlon. The remainder of the tree in these cases was simply too big to be moved without being extensively cut up. An unforeseen consequence of this was that it turned out later that there were still live trunks that could not be seen under the ones that were cut and left in place. After the ones that were cut had died then these became apparent, and, in these cases, the whole thing had to be cut up and removed to get at the remaining live ones.

Yet another problem arose when a UCC crew failed to cut up the trees they cut down, and just left them where they fell, which led to failing to find other live ones underneath. This happened because Ranger Wolverton was somewhere behind catching up on other trees that had initially been left for dead and was unable to be on hand to make sure the work was done properly. Overall a very frustrating endeavor.

It has become very clear that knocked over clusters of trees must be extensively cut up and physically removed enough to be sure that all live trunks underneath are found and cut. It is also imperative that all trees that are cut down must be cut up into manageable size pieces so that they can be removed from the site in order to find everything alive. Because of the sheer volume of cuttings it is also necessary to either find a place to pile them up to be burned later or to dispose of them in the river for the next flood to wash away. Random scattering of them only leaves a huge unsightly mess. Disposing of cuttings in the river is proving to be less than desirable because they all too often end up in large piles along the banks instead of washing all the way to the reservoir. In some cases it has been possible to burn these, which has worked very well. However, in places where it is possible to pile up the cuttings away from the river to be burned later that would be more desirable than disposing of them in the river.

Bill Wolverton
October 23, 2008


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