08.20.13

A Record-setting 80 Conservation Youth Corps Members Attend a River Restoration Training in Escalante, UT

This week, southern Utah’s Escalante River Watershed Partnership (ERWP) kicked off a major event: a week-long training and crew season for 80 conservation youth corps members. This is the largest youth corps training program in the nation to focus on teaching corps members how to do riparian—or river corridor—restoration. And it’s happening on a National Conservation Lands flagship river.

The river is the Escalante, which flows 90 miles between the town of Escalante, UT through the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon Recreation Area to its confluence with the Colorado River in Lake Powell. Invasive species such as Russian olive trees and tamarisk have taken hold along the river and are outcompeting native vegetation. The invasives choke water flows and reduce wildlife habitat. At risk are the more than 200 migratory bird species and many aquatic species—some of them threatened or endangered—that depend on the river.

New Conservation Youth Corps members receive river restoration training at the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. (Photo courtesy of ERWP)

(Photo courtesy of ERWP)

The 80-member riparian conservation corps has been brought in to take out these invasive species and help restore the river. Ages 18 to 24, corps members have been recruited from across the country by ten regional conservation corps. They are learning procedures for cutting out invasive Russian olive tress, how to safely apply herbicide to prevent re-growth, techniques for managing the cut biomass, emergency response preparedness, backcountry skills, flash flood risks and communication methods in the field.

They will also hear presentations by BLM Monument staff, Grand-Staircase Escalante Partners staff (members of the Friends Grassroots Network) and additional ERWP partners on plant identification, Leave No Trace practices, the monument’s paleontological resources, and its archaeology program. Crews will head out to various places on the river and work until early November. Crew members are paid, can earn education awards to apply to college or student loans, and many of them will no doubt count this as an extraordinary, once-in-a lifetime outdoor experience.

The Escalante River Watershed Partnership has been working since 2009 to restore and maintain the natural and ecological conditions of the Escalante River and its watershed by involving local communities in promoting and maintaining sustainable land and water use practices (read a previous post here).  River restoration is just one component, and it will take several years to rid the corridor of invasives.

The Partnership is making progress, however, and this largest-ever riparian conservation youth corps will carry that work closer to the finish line. At the end of this week’s training, the Partnership will host a ceremony and lunch for the 80 crew members. Several Department of Interior officials, BLM staff and elected and community leaders have been invited to help mark the occasion and celebrate one of the biggest restoration efforts taking place anywhere on the National Conservation Lands. The public is also invited to attend.

Details: Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ceremony: 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM (open to the public)

Lunch: 12:00 (open to the public)

Location: Escalante Interagency Visitor Center, 755 W. Main, Escalante, UT 84726

We’ll keep this blog updated with news of their progress. For more information, please contact Ron Rogers, Communications Coordinator for the Escalante River Watershed Partnership. ron@gsenm.org