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Protecting Nature, Preserving Life

Battling Invasive Species Along the Colorado River

Since 2008, Backcountry has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to support its efforts in conserving land, combating climate change, and defending clean and ample water supplies.

The Conservancy is working to protect one of America’s most iconic places: the Colorado River.

“The Colorado River is one of the world’s best loved rivers,” says Taylor Hawes, the Conservancy’s Colorado River Program Director. “It is also one of the hardest working rivers in North America.”

The Colorado River supports nearly 40 million people, more than 5 million acres of agriculture, and a thriving outdoor recreation and tourism industry. It’s also home to animals, plants and fish, including hundreds of species of migratory songbirds and native fish found nowhere else on Earth.

Spanning 15 different conservation projects that improve habitat and restore water flows along the Colorado River’s many tributaries, the Conservancy’s efforts speak to the greater end goal: to find a sustainable future for this river so that the needs of nature and people are met.

We recently furthered our longstanding partnership with The Nature Conservancy by creating the Colorado River Collection, which highlights three Conservancy projects on the Escalante, Verde, and Yampa rivers, all tributaries of the Colorado. A portion of every purchase made goes directly to the Conservancy.

Recently, a few of our Backcountry employees, Gearheads, and customers headed into Moab’s Matheson Preserve along the mainstream of the Colorado, which the Conservancy owns  in partnership with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Under the leadership of a few Conservancy and UDWR staff, the Backcountry team re-vegetated a small yet integral area in the nearly 900-acre wetland preserve.

While our volunteers went to plant seedlings, they also went to learn more about The Nature Conservancy’s efforts to protect and enhance this preserve. One such effort centers on battling an invasive species, tamarisk. Also known as salt cedar, tamarisk is a small tree or shrub that crowds out native species and alters natural stream flows.

“Tamarisk has displaced native vegetation on approximately 1.6 million acres of land in the Western United States,” The Nature Conservancy’s Linda Whitham explained. “And it continues to spread, which is why we’ve dedicated a great deal of time and effort to removing it and other woody invasives like the Russian olive.” Tamarisk’s negative effects on its surrounding environment are extensive. Because it grows in such dense, largely impenetrable thickets, tamarisk displaces native vegetation like cottonwoods and willows, reducing quality habitat for wildlife.

“The goal is to manage the preserve for the native plants and animals that inhabit the area as well as the natural processes of the wetlands ecosystem,” Whitham said, “Over the past 40 or 50 years, the habitat has changed dramatically due to occurrences offsite such as drought and changes in river flow. But we can help address this threat through restoration efforts and with the help of volunteers.”

For our volunteers, the day was spent planting 300 native, locally grown plants and trees such as  three-leaf sumac, as well as various Moab-sourced shrubs and grasses.

While planting an island of native seed will enable something other than tamarisk to inhabit the area, there’s more work to be done. The Conservancy’s Andrea Nelson believes that getting people out on the land is important. “Helping people learn about the ecosystem is the first step in getting people involved and wanting to help protect these special places.”

Bringing volunteers to the preserve, giving them the tools and knowledge to make a difference … that’s how we can start to make a change. “Volunteers have been an integral part of how we get things done at this preserve,” Linda told us. “Those who come here to learn and volunteer their time, they’re the hope behind helping this amazing place survive.”

Spending time outside and making the places we love most even better … that’s a goal The Nature Conservancy and Backcountry share. And because conservation has never been more important than it is now, for Backcountry, supporting the Conservancy’s endeavors to protect nature and preserve life is not only a privilege, but a necessity.

You too can make a difference for the Colorado River. For each product sold from our Colorado River Collection between now and January 31, 2018, Backcountry will donate $10 directly to the Conservancy in support of the Colorado River Basin. Shop to benefit The Nature Conservancy here.