War with the Russian Olive
Progress 2004
by Bill Wolverton

Weeds Progress — 2004
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 2004. All work was done by Escalante Ranger Bill Wolverton except as noted.

In April a Wilderness Volunteers group completed the removal of Russian Olive from the remainder of 25 Mile Wash, after about a mile and two side canyons had been cleared previously. Some remains on BLM. The only major side canyon of the Escalante remaining to be cleared of Russian Olive in Glen Canyon NRA now is Harris Wash. Before going into 25 Mile this same group also completed much needed follow up on both Tamarisk and Russian Olive in the Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch.

In April/May a Wilderness Volunteers group cleared 1¾ miles of the Escalante River of Russian Olive between Scorpion Gulch and East Moody Canyon.

In September another Wilderness Volunteers group cleared another 1½ miles of the river of Russian Olive, progressing almost to East Moody Canyon.

In September a combined Sierra Club and Utah Conservation Corps group cleared another mile, bringing the total to 26 miles, just past the halfway point of the Glen Canyon NRA part of the Escalante River, and leaving a little less than 25 miles to go. It has now been 4 years since this effort was first started.

All four of these trips were planned, organized and led by Ranger Bill Wolverton.

In October Ranger Cathy Burns assisted in the clearing of another 2/10 of a mile of Russian Olive in a short trip, and the clearing of the left bank of the river all the way to Moody Creek was also completed. Rain resulting in a significant flood on the river prevented doing any more on the right bank.

In March and April the north branch of Fence Canyon was cleared of Russian Olive

In April VIP Bob Read helped clear all remaining Tamarisk from the south branch of Choprock Canyon from its confluence with the main canyon up to the big pouroff, about ¾ mile. He also worked on other Tamarisk in the area. Read had started working on Russian Olive and Tamarisk in lower Choprock about 4 years ago and has nearly finished it.

In July Scorpion Gulch was cleared of Russian Olive.

Follow up trips working on Tamarisk in the entire length of Coyote Gulch plus 40 Mile and Willow Gulches were completed in the spring months.

The last remaining Tamarisk in Coyote, located on the sediment deposits that accumulated in the lower end of the canyon in the overfilling of the Glen Canyon reservoir in 1983, was cleared over several trips in the spring, and the last of it was completed in October.

A follow up trip to work on Russian Olive on the Escalante River from Scorpion Gulch to Coyote Gulch was done in October with the assistance of botanist John Spence. Approximately 275 new starts were found and cut from Scorpion Gulch to Fold Canyon, about 6 miles. This was rather alarming, to say the least, and offers a compelling indication of why this effort must be made. In another 5 to 10 years all of these would have been large trees, completely displacing all native vegetation around them. Below Fold Canyon follow up had already been done and the number of new starts diminished very noticeably. Extensive rain midway through the trip and a consequent large flood made it impossible to do an intensive search for new starts from the river, and only those that could be accessed from the left bank from Fold Canyon to Fools Canyon, about 6 miles, were cut. Only a few were seen on other side. There were very few found in this section, but another follow up will have to be done in the spring. Because of the flood this trip was terminated and exit made from the canyon at Fools instead of going all the way to Coyote.

• Summary of Progress as of November 2004 •

Coyote Gulch:
Completely cleared of all known Tamarisk in Glen Canyon NRA except for some old growth remaining in and near an abandoned channel of the Dry Fork. Plans are being made to work on this area next spring. All known Russian Olive has also been cleared from the entire watershed, including in the abandoned channel of the Dry Fork. None has been found on BLM land upstream. It has now been 9 years since the first organized effort against Tamarisk was made in Coyote, by a Sierra Club group in April 1995. Initial efforts were made the previous two years by Rangers Jim Bowman and Bill Wolverton.

40 mile and Willow Gulch:
40 Mile and Willow Gulches: cleared of all known Tamarisk in their lower reaches where there is flowing water, down to the full pool reach of the reservoir. The dry upper reaches of the two canyons, both in Glen Canyon NRA and on BLM, have not been done. Some large stands of Tamarisk are known to exist in some of the various branches of the two canyons. One minor occurrence of Russian Olive was found and removed in 40 Mile, and none in Willow.

Escalante River:
Slightly over 26 miles of the lower Escalante River have been cleared of Russian Olive, from about ¼ mile below Moody Creek to Coyote Gulch, leaving a bit less than 25 miles to be done in Glen Canyon NRA.

Scorpion Gulch:
Completely cleared of Russian Olive.

Fools Canyon:
Nothing done. Upper 3 miles needs to be checked for Russian Olive. No Russian Olive has been found in the lower 2 miles

Fence Canyon:
North branch cleared of Russian Olive except for one large tree that will need to be girdled. South branch not done.

Choprock Canyon:
All known Russian Olive cleared, but the northernmost branch has not been surveyed. Most Tamarisk from the confluence with the southern branch to the Escalante River, about a mile, has been cleared, and the south branch has been cleared from its confluence with the main canyon up to the large pouroff, about mile.

Neon Canyon:
Completely cleared of all Tamarisk and Russian Olive for about one mile up from the Escalante River. None has been found above that.

25 Mile Wash:
Completely cleared of Russian Olive in GLCA except for one that was missed near the Escalante River and will be done on a follow up trip next year. Approx. one mile cleared on BLM, with about three miles remaining, plus one side canyon on BLM with a minor amount.

• Observations •

During the September trips working on Russian Olive on the river it became painfully obvious that hand tools are woefully inadequate for dealing with the number of large trees being encountered. They can be girdled more easily than they can be cut down, but this is a slow, tedious process, and it has been found that not many of the volunteers have the necessary skill with a saw or the patience to do it. Because of this, partway through the second trip the decision was made to leave the large trees behind and get them later when authority for the use of a chainsaw has been obtained. Clearing of smaller trunks around them was completed so that they can be cut quickly when the time comes. The only ones left this way are located in less than a mile of river between Moody Creek and East Moody Canyon, where they are readily accessible via Moody Creek.

Once authority to use a chainsaw has been obtained the larger trees will mostly be girdled and left standing in order to reduce the amount of cuttings disposed of in the river. This can be done in a small fraction of the time required to either cut them down or girdle them with hand saws. As progress is made upriver there will be more and more large trees encountered, and as time goes on they will all be growing ever larger, and a chainsaw will be vital in order to continue progress on this effort. The chainsaw will also make it feasible to cut up the trees that are cut down and fall in the river into smaller pieces so that they can wash away more readily. This will reduce the problem of them getting wrapped around the many boulders in the river below Scorpion Gulch, as they have been found to do.

• Plans for 2005 •

Continue working on Russian Olive on Escalante River, with a goal of reaching 25 Mile Wash, for a total of 32 miles done in GLCA. Wilderness Volunteers trips have been scheduled for May 1st, and September, and a Sierra Club trip for October 2nd to work on this.

Continue working on remaining Tamarisk in the Dry Fork of Coyote, with a goal of finishing it. May have a high school group from Durango, CO to help with this, except that students will not be handling herbicide.

Clear Russian Olive from south branch of Fence Canyon.

Continue working on Tamarisk in Choprock

Check upper Fools Canyon and the north branch of Choprock for Russian Olive, clear if feasible to do so at the time.

Follow up for Russian Olive in 25 Mile Wash and the Escalante River from 25–Mile to Coyote Gulch.

Follow up for Tamarisk in 40 Mile and Willow, survey remaining upper reaches of both canyons in GLCA.

Assist BLM to finish remaining Russian Olive in 25 Mile above GLCA boundary.

Bill Wolverton
October 2004


© 2003–2016 Bill Wolverton