by Janetta Shepard
In an effort to encourage land owners and managers to restore degraded riparian areas under their stewardship, the Colorado Riparian Association is compiling a “Driving Guide” of restored riparian projects. This excerpt from the Guide begins a new series in the green line which showcases successful restoration projects within Colorado’s watersheds. Efforts have been made to include a diversity of projects on both private and publicly-managed lands, and innovative methods that reflect the most current technology available to deal with complex restoration issues. If you know of a property that might be a good addition to this publication, please contact Stasia Sprenger or Janetta Shepard at (303) 442-4770 . Comments are welcome and we hope you enjoy this preview to the Driving Guide.
The featured property this issue is the Cathedral Bluffs Allotment of East Douglas Creek which is managed by the Craig District office of the Bureau of Land Management. The project is located east of Rangely, Colorado and runs north to the White River and south to Douglas Pass. This property was highly susceptible to soil erosion and invasion by weedy species due to past overgrazing by cattle and the presence of a large herd of wild horses. Grasses had been outcompeted by sagebrush on the slopes and riparian corridors were severely damaged. Woody vegetation was totally absent along the stream banks. A small beaver population was present, but their dams were made of insubstantial materials because of the unavailability of woody riparian vegetation. It was apparent that these conditions would continue to deteriorate without proper management.
The goals of this project included: implementation of a grazing system that would improve existing vegetation and meet growth requirements of the desired plant community throughout the allotment; improvement of riparian/wetland areas in a properly functioning condition through an aggressive weed management program; maintenance of stocks of woody riparian vegetation; and maintenance of herbaceous stubble along the channel for sediment capture.
Over a five year period, a grazing management system was initiated by the land stewards, ranchers William and Kathy Barnard. This management system was based on utilization limits (including the horse herd) and implementation of range improvements projects. It is a deferred system based on the herding of livestock to prevent overuse while meeting vegetative regrowth requirements and working in conjunction with the natural movements of livestock.
Conditions on the allotment have improved dramatically from a period of aggressive restoration. The stream channel has narrowed and willows, cottonwoods, and box elders have re-established throughout the riparian corridor. Beaver have flourished and are now present even when the creek is dry. Their numbers are being monitored to prevent overpopulation, and their dams now trap sediments which have added to bank stability and aided re-vegetation. Calf weight increased an average of 150 pounds and open-cow and late births decreased from 10 percent to 4 and 2 to 3 percent respectively.
Working in a cooperative effort with ranch manager, Sid Goodloe and the BLM, East Douglas Creek has been a dramatically successful restoration effort.