Dolores River Riparian Action Plan

Recommendations for implementing tamarisk control and restoration efforts completed in 2010 for the Dolores River Restoration Partnership.

By L. Clark Tate with assistance by Tim Carlson, past Tamarisk Coalition Executive Director 

The executive summary is included below. View or download the full report.

Dolores River Riparian Action Plan (DR-RAP)

Recommendations for Implementing Tamarisk Control & Restoration Efforts

March 2010

Though a myriad of factors affect the health of the Dolores River, the invasion of tamarisk is a particular focus for land managers due to its extensive growth patterns which can displace native vegetation and affect the health and sustainability of these vegetative communities. In 2008, The Nature Conservancy completed a tamarisk control project on the San Miguel River and turned to the Dolores River. In the spring of 2009, The Nature Conservancy and the Tamarisk Coalition began working with local land owners and managers to develop a watershed-wide tamarisk control and restoration strategy, which is embodied in the Dolores River Riparian Action Plan (DR-RAP). As a result of these efforts, the Dolores River Restoration Partnership was formed.

DR-RAP’s Purpose is to: (1) to articulate the science-driven, tamarisk related vision, goals, and site selection criteria common to Dolores River stakeholders in both Colorado and Utah to facilitate a consistent approach throughout the watershed; and (2) to initiate and facilitate an increased level of collaboration and communication among the stakeholders to enhance information transfer, adaptive management, and likelihood of large scale, meaningful success.

DR-RAP’s Vision is: A Dolores River watershed dominated by native vegetation, where the threats from tamarisk and other associated invasive species have been mitigated and the riparian areas of the watershed continue to become more naturally functioning, self-sustaining, diverse, and resilient over time. This ecologically focused vision is a step toward the overarching vision of the Dolores River Restoration Partnership of . . . a thriving Dolores River system that is ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable in a multiuse context.

Dolores River

The Guiding Principles for the execution of the Vision include: (1) a collaborative approach, (2) funding must sustain short-term monitoring & maintenance to a determined point of restoration success, (3) minimize harm to wildlife species, (4) concurrent restoration work throughout the watershed, and (5) educate the public and Dolores River stakeholders at every opportunity.

The main ecologic and anthropogenic “stressors” that affect the Dolores River are tamarisk, tamarisk treatment and associated restoration/revegetation methods, the tamarisk leaf beetle, hydrology, livestock and wildlife grazing, geomorphology, saline soils and arid conditions, herbaceous and woody invasives, and climate change. DR-RAP makes various assumptions that the plan’s goals can be met even in the presence of these stressors.

DR-RAP’s 5 Year Goals are:

  • Ecologic – increase the number of sustainable, healthy riparian plant communities while reducing those dominated by tamarisk and other invasive, non-native plant species.
  • Social – develop a professional, competitive, and efficient work force; improve aesthetic enjoyment; increase public safety; and increase the protection of property.
  • Economic – increase employment opportunities, improve cost benefit ratio for contractors and youth service corps, improve effectiveness and financial efficiency of riparian restoration, and enhance visitor travel to the area.
  • Management – manage adaptively, incorporate education and interpretation, garner support from agency budgets and attract other sources of funding, facilitate communications between land managers and partners.DR-RAP defines Criteria for Prioritization and a Decision Tree to help land managers determine where restoration should occur to best meet these goals on the Dolores River. At the sites selected, the following methods will be used to meet DR-RAP’s goals; tamarisk removal, biomass removal or remediation, non-native woody species control, non-native herbaceous species control, revegetation, short and long-term monitoring and maintenance, and adaptive management.The Dolores River Restoration Partnership makes the following recommendations for 2010:
    • The Dolores River Restoration Partnership should be formalized through MOUs;
    • Pilot projects should be established to answer pressing management questions;
    • A two day winter workshop should be convened to incorporate lessons learned in 2010 to inform 2011 actions; and
    • Monitoring, Funding, Education, and Science Subcommittees should be formed to address such issues as adaptive management challenges and tributaries.
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