Escalante Headwaters Case Study

This is the first in a series of articles documenting a specific riparian restoration project on 18 acres of private land in the Upper Valley Region of Escalante. 

Allysia Angus owns 18 acres of property in the Upper Valley region of Escalante.  As a concerned and involved land owner, she has devoted her time and energy to the restoration of the riparian areas on her property.  Her goal is to leave the land in, as a dedicated boy scout might say, “better shape than when [she] got it.”  At Allysia’s request, BCA and its partners are currently working to develop, design, and fund, a plan to repair the streambank on her property.


Some work has already been successfully completed on Allysia’s project when she allowed the Conservation Corps to remove Russian olive on her property in 2013.  BCA and its partners are well known for their work to remove this invasive tree from private land in Escalante and Boulder.  Russian olive was introduced in our county many years ago as a tool for erosion control.  These highly successful invasive trees have spread rampantly, displacing native vegetation crucial to healthy riparian communities.  However, the removal of Russian olive is only one step towards a healthy riparian zone.

ERWP_Upper Valley_7-12-2010_ Stitch 19-20-21

This photo taken in 2010 shows the riverbank overrun with dense stands of Russian olive. In 2013, the restoration process began with the removal of the Russian olive shown here. Photo Credit: Craig Sorenson.


Highway 12 runs directly through Allysia’s land, with her strawbale home to the south of the road and Upper Valley Creek to the north.  The challenge is visually obvious.  Upper Valley Creek has downcut dramatically leaving naked sagebrush roots dangling over the edge of the precipice.   The walls of this now incised channel are, in areas, seven times as tall as Michael Jackson.  Allysia has personally watched as seasonal storms have eroded enormous sections of the sandy embankment.


Various partners meeting on-site with Allysia Angus to discuss restoration tactics. A project of this nature involves a strong team of committed partners from various private and public organizations. This particular partnership meeting included representatives from: Boulder Community Alliance, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Utah Department of Transportation, Partners for Fish and Wildlife, South Central Communications, the Utah Division of Water Quality. Amber Hughes, the GSENM botanist is also closely involved with the project.


On a windy April morning Sue Fearon (BCA’s Regional Coordinator) and I met with Allysia and eleven additional partners—including a civil engineer, watershed coordinator, soil conservationist, biologist, botanist, and UDOT and utility representatives—to discuss the next step in riparian restoration: erosion control through streambank stabilization and re-vegetation.

As BCA’s Regional Coordinator, part of Sue Fearon’s job is to facilitate this process by identifying funding and technical partners.  Partnerships like this one are crucial to the success of restoration.  Repairing Allysia’s streambank is important to many people and for different reasons.  Upper Valley Creek is downcutting dangerously close to the edge of the Highway 12, motivating UDOT to hop on the restoration train for the safety of the highway. As explained by participant Clint Wirick, biologist with Partners for Fish and Wildlife, the health of these riparian areas also affects the native habitats of songbirds.  Amy Dickey, the Watershed Coordinator for the Utah Division of Water Quality, also explained how all of these factors impact the quality of our irrigation and drinking water.  Any erosion control and sediment reduction in the Escalante River will certainly benefit the downstream water users as well.


The “Escalante Headwaters Case Study” is designed to illustrate the restoration process in detail.  This is one of many BCA facilitated past, current, and future private land restoration projects.

Boulder Community Alliance and its partners are dedicated to sustainable restoration, moving far beyond the removal of invasive species.  True restoration in Allysia’s case, as well as in many others, involves streambank stabilization, the reintroduction of productive native plant species, and continued long-term maintenance.  Restoration benefits not only the individual landowner but also our community and landscape as a whole.





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