My First WV Project as an Intern

Driving into Escalante, Utah I did not really know what to expect for the coming week. I had been studying conservation and preservation for two years in college but this would be my first project outside of school. My excitement and anticipation grew after meeting the leaders for the trip and some of the other volunteers at a local Grand Staircase rally. After only a few small conversations with the other participants my passion for the organization grew. Bringing approximately ten people together, who are all passionate about public land, to work on a project for the betterment of the area in an effort to give something back was an awesome concept that I was thrilled to be a part of.

The Scene

Born and raised in Colorado I am new to the desert landscape and Utah is quickly becoming my favorite state after only a few weeks in the canyons. The backpack into our basecamp was about ten miles both on the rim and within the steep canyon walls. This allowed me to realize how Wilderness Volunteers serves as a great opportunity to see remote parts of the country while simultaneously
working for the improvement of the environment. Making our way into the canyon we were privileged to see a wide variety of mokey steps and petroglyphs riddled along the red walls. The project was located half way up Harris Wash, a side canyon of the Escalante. There was no established trail so we hiked up the stream winding in and out of alcoves until we ended up at our camp location, which was at the foot of a 300 foot canyon wall.
Each morning we made our way up the wash about a mile to the work site. Every corner we rounded in the canyon was a new window to an all new picturesque landscape.

The Project

The WV project in Escalante is part of a larger effort to eradicate Russian Olive which is an invasive species that is hyper adaptive to the area thus allowing it to out compete native plants and horde limited resources. In addition to that, the tree is excellent at stabilizing the banks of the river channel preventing the fluctuation in the sinuosity of the waterway allowing the stream to deepen channels. As the banks stabilize sediment is no longer deposited normally which alters the system as a whole. It was definitely hard work to actually remove and kill the tree.

This summer was the first season that the hack and squirt method was practiced. Trees with a base diameter of less than four inches were cut with a hand saw as close to the ground as possible and then sprayed with a chemical compound that the trees phloem would then transport to the roots ensuring the death of the tree. (The chemical used is activated by freshly cut wood and is deactivated when it makes contact with water making it safe for the local biotic community). For trees larger than four inches a hatchet was used to expose phloem and xylem around the tree and the squirted with the chemical to be circulated throughout the tree. All cutoff was downsized to 4 foot sections and placed in the wash where flash floods would wash it out of the canyon. 
All in all it was a great project! We treated over two miles of Harris wash (the final area of the Escalante Canyon). I am looking forward to my next two projects with Wilderness Volunteers later in the summer and many more in the future.

Written by Kevin Graves, WV’s 2017 Intern.