Colorado River Riparian Habitat Restoration Receives Funding

Moab, Utah (June 27, 2024) – A multi-year project by the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands to address the impacts of invasive species along 384 acres of the Colorado River has become a fully funded project in the latest round of funding through Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative (WRI). 

The project was ranked 8th out of 121 candidates statewide, showing its priority to the state and surrounding communities.

“Since 2014, the Colorado River Sovereign Lands team has participated in fourteen WRI projects, bringing a total of $5.6 million grant dollars to southeastern Utah and treating over forty-six hundred acres of FFSL-managed rivers,” said Jordan Van Sickle, Restoration Coordinator for Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. 

The Colorado River Sovereign Lands program and its Federal and local partners were awarded a grant of more than $700,000 from WRI to improve the health of riparian habitats and reduce wildfire risk along the Colorado River corridor northeast of Moab.

The project will begin in July and is part of a continuing partnership of a federal, state, & local interagency team that will remove invasive species from the river corridor to promote a renewed ecosystem that is resistant to fires, increase the abundance of native plant species and restore the natural function, resilience and biodiversity of the riparian habitat.

The interagency partnership is a collaborative effort between the Southeast Utah Riparian Partnership (SURP), which includes representatives from FFSL, the Bureau of Land Management, the Grand County Weeds Department, the National Park Service and the Conservation Corps. 

Other partners involved in the project include Rim to Rim Restoration and Science Moab. Rim to Rim Restoration is a nonprofit providing expertise in riparian restoration design and vegetation monitoring of the restoration. Science Moab aims to engage and empower local communities in science across the Colorado Plateau and provide hands-on educational opportunities to local high schoolers. 

Invasive species of tamarisk, Russian olive, Russian knapweed, phragmites and others have taken over sections of the Colorado River and many of its tributaries. These invasive plants displace and outcompete native vegetation, which increases wildfire fuel loads, reduces human access to the river and impacts water quality and quantity. Removing these invasive species allows native plants to recover and rebuild their habitat. 

Crews will manually remove invasive species using hand tools, aquatic-approved herbicides, and other practices that ensure the invasive plants do not reseed. FFSL will facilitate and monitor the project to evaluate the success of treatment efforts and the recovery of native plants. FFSL will also monitor the restorative efforts on river side channels and floodplains to assess water availability. 

Addressing the damage caused by invasive species will help preserve habitat and recreation opportunities, ensuring a more sustainable and resilient ecosystem for future generations. 

Learn more about this project at Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative at