Utah groups to celebrate Earth Day

Published: Friday, April 20 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

The Bear River Watershed Council, an environmental group in Cache County, is taking action to celebrate Earth Day. Volunteers fielded by the group will block illegal and damaging off-road-vehicle routes in a wilderness area.

Although the actual date for Earth Day is Sunday, many organizations across the country are celebrating on Saturday. These include the Watershed Council and some other Utah groups. Several events, including in Utah, will take place on Sunday or other days near Earth Day.

Dan Miller, executive director of the group based in Richmond, Cache County, said this will be the fourth time the council has acted to block illegal ORV routes but the first time when the action is held to commemorate Earth Day.

"Our organization got involved with documenting route conditions on the (Wasatch-Cache national) forest with our Project MUD, which stands for Motorized Use Data project," he said. Volunteers hiked through the forest near Logan, documenting trespass vehicle ruts and areas used as hill-climbs.

"What we were finding was all these illegal, unauthorized tracks going off in all directions." Some were made by motorcycles, some by four-wheel-drive vehicles.

On occasion, they found that routes were actually constructed, with people downing trees so they could drive their vehicles through the forest. "Some of it, you can see where they've used some shovels and chain saws," he said.

One route actually runs to "a hill-climb in the wilderness," he said.

After forest officials told the council they didn't have the money to repair the damage, the council came up with the funding and materials. The forest suggested projects for them.

The Earth Day effort, funded by grants from the National Forest Foundation and Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), focuses on illegal routes in Hyde Park Canyon north of Logan. Volunteers will gather at the canyon mouth at 8 a.m. Saturday for a day working to block illegal routes in Mt. Naomi Wilderness Area.

They will block four routes with timber and drag boulders and downed tree debris onto the tracks. Volunteers will cut trenches, called water bars, to slow runoff pouring from denuded ground, and will put in seed as well as hay bales to hold the soil.

Those interested in joining the volunteers, who number about 25 or 30 so far, should contact Miller at 435-258-4432 or 435-797-1372.

Other events are scheduled throughout the state to commemorate Earth Day:

  • Salt Lake residents wanting to restore the natural habitat of the Jordan River plan to gather Saturday and replant a site on the river near 1100 West and 1100 South.

    "We invite the entire community, always, to our event," said Tara Poelzing, coordinator for the "Bend-in-the-River" organization. The action is a program of the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center at the University of Utah.

    Poelzing noted that the center is the steward of about two acres of land owned beside the Jordan. Often elementary schools help with projects there.

    The Bend-in-the-River replanting will start at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the site, 1030 W. Fremont Ave. (1110 South). Following a light breakfast, volunteers will watch a planting demonstration by TreeUtah.

    "Then everybody will be planting, and we'll plant until about 11:30," she said. Most of the project is to restore wetlands, but some will be on higher land. "It's going to be all kinds of plants — trees, shrubs, mostly herbaceous plants and wetland plants."

    Poelzing added that the event concludes with a complimentary lunch for the volunteers. Based on previous years, about 75 may show up. "But who knows?" she asked. "With the (Salt Lake City) Marathon, it could go either way." The marathon begins Saturday morning and may affect traffic.

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