Cottonwood Comeback

A small group of local residents has a vision for a portion of the Colorado River that includes shaded places to rest and a return to the native ecosystem. It’s a dream the 80-some members of the Friends of McInnis Canyons hope others will share.

For too long, invasive tamarisk trees have dominated the riverbanks along the 25-mile stretch between the Loma boat ramp and Utah’s Westwater section in Ruby Canyon and Horsethief Canyon.

As tamarisk beetles work to kill the water-guzzling species, an effort is under way to replant Freemont cottonwood trees to help return the area to its natural splendor.

The nonprofit Friends of McInnis Canyons, a group that works to increase education and awareness for the more than 123,000 protected acres in the National Conservation Area, is sponsoring a fundraiser to advance that cause.

For a $150 donation, residents can have a Freemont cottonwood planted in their honor.

For a $350 donation, participants can enjoy an all-inclusive, overnight rafting trip to plant the trees.

The trip is slated for Oct. 9-10, and all accommodations are donated by Tom Kleinschnitz of Adventure Bound River Expeditions.

“It would be phenomenal to go down the river and see all those old Freemont cottonwoods,” the group’s president, Owen O’Fallon, said of the impact of the tree’s reintroduction.

“If we can keep the (tamarisk) down, if they’re not competing for every drop of water, the cottonwoods will compete.”

The replanting effort will coincide with the 10th anniversary next year of Congress establishing the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area as a protected area, O’Fallon said. The fundraiser should provide education in a relaxed setting about the need for restoration on the river stretch and the role of the group, he added.

An increase in boaters and campers during prime summer weekends on the popular river corridor has increased tension among users.

A number of man-made fires have destroyed some of the rare, remaining stands of cottonwoods along the banks. Officials with the Bureau of Land Management are gathering suggestions on how best to manage campsite use along the waterway.

O’Fallon said proceeds from the fundraiser go toward efforts that help in planting the trees and other functions related to caring for the sprawling National Conservation Area.

The group wants to someday place a shade shelter at the Trail Through Time in Rabbit Valley, a project that could cost $10,000 to $12,000, O’Fallon said.

Biking, hiking, off-highway vehicle use, hunting, fishing and other recreational opportunities are available in the protected area.

To get involved in the fundraiser, call Friends of McInnis Canyons manager Danielle Foushee at 314-7364 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

To submit a suggestion to the BLM about Colorado River use in the Horsethief Canyon and Ruby Canyon, write to Matt McGrath of the BLM at 2815 H Road, Grand Junction 81506, or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Comments should be delivered by Sept. 30. Include name, street address, e-mail address and phone number.


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