Russian Olive Treatment and Monitoring on the Escalante River: Lessons From 15 Years of Restoration 

Kevin Berend1*

1Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, Escalante, UT, USA


As one of the most well-known invasive species treatments efforts ever undertaken in the Southwest, the Escalante River is an exemplar of what successful riparian restoration looks like. But communication of that success is hampered by limited monitoring data. The Escalante River Watershed Partnership was formed in 2009 as a coalition of state and federal agencies, nonprofits, scientists, local businesses, and private landowners that came together to address the spread and impacts of Russian olive in the Escalante River watershed. The eradication effort began with a multi-million-dollar investment, tens of thousands of staff and crew hours, and unbridled enthusiasm, becoming a model for riparian restoration in the West. Monitoring data indicates that Russian olive remains below target levels, and there has been substantial recruitment of native woody vegetation. With the completion of primary treatment in 2019, the Partnership has been forced to reevaluate its goals and identify weaknesses that have occurred along the way, including data gaps and a limited scope of research and monitoring. These gaps limit the extent to which success can be measured and communicated to project partners and the public. Kevin will discuss project successes and areas for improvement, and make recommendations for similar projects on the Colorado Plateau. Riparian restoration projects should consider certain items as essential from inception of project planning: baseline and long-term data needs, goals and outcomes to be tracked, deliverables such as journal articles, record-keeping, and maintaining institutional knowledge.