We recently caught up with Brian Murdock, the Recreation, Wilderness & Trails Manager for the Monticello/Moab ranger district of the Manti-La Sal National Forest to talk about our work in the Dark Canyon Wilderness; our next project there is May 11 – 14, 2014.

“The area that I am fortunate to manage is the Dark Canyon Wilderness. I have heard it referred to as the wild heart of the Colorado Plateau and I like that description. I believe one of its most unique qualities is the solitude it offers. As more and more of our wildlands are seeing increasing use, the logistics of getting into the area and the sheer remoteness of the canyon makes use relatively low in the Dark Canyon area. If you want a real wilderness experiences with a good chance of being completely alone and you are prepared, this is the place.

We are always in need of trail work. The wilderness is a dynamic system and keeping trails open and passable is a Herculean task that never ends. Wilderness Volunteers has put a lot of time into helping the US Forest Service remove tamarisk which we finished up in 2013.

Currently the recreation and wilderness staff on our district consists of two full time employees and 5-7 seasonal employees. The reality of our work is that we cannot meet all of the demands we have in managing developed and dispersed recreation, trails (non-motorized and motorized), outfitter and guides, and our winter recreation program on two different mountain ranges (the LA Sals and the Abajo/Elk Ridge) with the staff we have. Volunteers are a necessity if we want to fulfill our management responsibilities and Wilderness Volunteers has been one of our best partners in achieving our wilderness management goals. 

Our most recent projects with Wilderness Volunteers has included two annual trips each year for the past 8 years. In the spring we have conducted tamarisk inventories and removal and in the fall we do cultural inventories of the area. In 2013 we cleared the final tamarisk from the wilderness (that we know about). It was very satisfying to be able to clear all of the springs and wetlands of the invasive trees. I am sure there are still some lurking out there but  Wilderness Volunteers made the Dark Canyon Wilderness a much more natural and wild place with the work they did removing tamarisk. We also conducted a trail project this year in the La Sal mountains with Wilderness Volunteers that was very successful. The enthusiasm of the volunteers is always infectious. I love introducing people to new areas and watching them fall in love with Dark Canyon and the other areas we manage.

You can continue to give back when not on a WV project by educating everyone around you about the importance of public lands and in particular about wilderness. I think a lot of the American public have major misconceptions about wilderness. Having Wilderness Volunteers telling others about their volunteer trips and their accomplishments can go a long way in educating the public about wilderness and its management.”