When settlers moved west into Utah, they altered
streams to provide water for irrigation of crops, haylands, and pastureland. The diversion
of water from streams increased until entire streams were, and still are, dewatered during
the summer months.
Dams were constructed to store water for
irrigation and public drinking water. Entire streams have been diverted from one watershed
to another so that the water storage potential in existing reservoirs could be increased.
Water manipulation had an impact on riparian areas and instream habitat.
Streams were heavily utilized by sheep
and cattle as they provided a water source, shade, and longer period of forage production.
Spraying willows with herbicides was a
common practice to remove them from the streambanks. Settlers thought that trees were
removing vast amounts of water from the streams. Woody vegetation was also eradicated to
increase the amount of grass growing along the streambanks. These practices resulted in a
loss of riparian habitat and stream degradation over time.
Loss of riparian and instream habitat
was also experienced over the years as streams were straightened to improve flow and
reduce flooding potential.
Currently, development is the greatest
threat to Utah wetlands and the associated upland habitat around the Great Salt Lake.
Eighty-five percent of the states population live within the area containing 75% of
the wetlands. In the 2000 census, Utah was ranked fourth in overall percentage of
population growth. The counties bordering the Great Salt Lake have increased in population
by an average of 24%, and the development of more housing and industry has risen
Upland habitat or rangeland decreased in
diversity and health over the years. Invading cheatgrass caused a decline in range health.
Fire suppression allowed various shrubs and trees to expand and compete with native
grasses and forbes. Native rangeland has been plowed, sprayed, and planted with non-native
species to increase production.
Duck clubs are very common around the Great Salt
Lake, and a majority of the wetland preservation work has been done in conjunction with
these clubs. The main focus of the Partners Program while working with the clubs has been
to improve their water management capability to provide habitat for waterfowl and
shorebirds by constructing additional dikes to subdivide existing impoundments and
repairing existing dikes.
Another area for wetland work has been
in the western part of Utah. These isolated wetlands are vital to numerous types of
wildlife. One such species benefitting from this work is the spotted frog.
Wetland restoration or enhancement wwork
costs about $650 per acre to complete.
Riparian and In-Stream Habitat Work
This habitat type is extremely valuable
for wildlife, livestock, and the general public. It provides a much needed water source as
well as shade and canopy cover. Native fish are still found throughout numerous
watersheds, and restoration efforts are focused within these areas.
Some of the problems associated with
this habitat type are loss of the riparian vegetation and the degradation of streambanks
resulting in increased water temperature and decreased water quality.
Many landowners have realized the
benefits associated with a healthy stream system. Benefits such as reduced erosion, better
water quality, improved fishing opportunities, and improved forage production are all
sources of pride for landowners when they participate in stream and riparian restoration
efforts. Riparian and in-stream restoration activities cost about $16 per linear foot to
Restored in-stream and riparian habitat
Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Don Wiley
Rangeland/Upland Restoration Activities
Past management techniques for rangeland
improvement included discing up sagebrush and seeding single species stands of crested
wheatgrass. This practice is changing, and landowners are interested in re-seeding these
areas to provide a wider variety of forbs and grasses. Many areas containing native
sagebrush have become climax communities with limited species in the understory.
An aerator with seeder attachment.
Photo courtesy of Deseret Land and Livestock.
An area treated with the aerator.
Mechanical treatment is
one method used to reestablish a more diverse plant community in these areas. One such
mechanical treatment used by a rancher involves the use of an aerator. The aerator crushes
the old decadent sagebrush leaving behind residual litter and small flexible woody plants
while established grasses and forbs. If there is limited plant variety in the understory,
seeding can also be done in conjunction with the aerator.
|Grass seedings are also being done
around the Great Salt Lake to provide nesting habitat. Much of the current upland habitat
is infested with cheatgrass and other noxious weeds. Grass seeding with native grass
seed costs approximately $40 per acre.
It is anticipated that the Utah Partners
Program will continue working with private landowners well into the future.
Potential restoration work includes:
- Native trout streams - 800 miles
- Wetland work - 90,000 acres
- Range/upland restoration - 250 million
In Utah, the Partners for Fish and
Wildlife Programs main objective is to help landowners improve upon management
techniques, learn new techniques, help them implement these techniques, and then monitor
projects to see if they are attaining the goals of the landowners and the Fish and