Those of you who’ve followed Wilderness Volunteers for a while know that one of our longest-running service projects is the effort to restore southern Utah’s magnificent Escalante River by removing the invasive (and rather thorny) Russian olive tree. Since 1999, we’ve coordinated volunteer activities with recently retired Park Ranger Bill Wolverton from the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (downstream) and since 2003 with Botanist Amber Hughes from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (upstream). Wilderness Volunteers joined a recently formed coalition called the Escalante River Watershed Project to coordinate efforts throughout the drainage, providing groups of volunteers and scientists to work in remote locations from headwaters to major side canyons downstream. ERWP consists of private landowners, local business alliances, public land agencies and a host of government and nonprofit interests.

Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recognized the effort and accomplishments of the greater project as part of the President’s America’s Great Outdoor Rivers. The declaration reads in part “Healthy rivers are a pillar of the President’s and Secretary’s vision for America’s Great Outdoor Rivers because rivers offer ‘close to home’ recreation (boating, swimming, fishing, camping, hiking) and rivers provide important habitat and migration corridors for fish and wildlife. River connect communities to natural places like parks and wildlife refuges.” You can read the Interior’s proclamation here.

Wilderness Volunteers is featuring two Russian olive removal projects this fall in southern Utah. Our project with the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Sept 23-29 begins and ends with a thrilling off-trail backpack 6 miles deep into the Escalante Canyon where we’ll  base camp near the mouth of Boulder Creek. Our second Escalante River project, Sept 9-15, just downstream from the Hwy 12 river bridge, only has two spaces remaining. Please join us to be part of a very special effort to restore this great river.