Volunteers sought for planting at Red Cliffs restoration project

Volunteers are needed to help restore tortoise habitat that has yet to recover from devastating wildfires in the Red Cliffs Conservation Area. | Undated file photo by John Kellam, courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, St. George News.

ST. GEORGE — Several organizations, including the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and The Nature Conservancy, are once again conducting a planting project on the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area to help the land recover from wildfires that laid waste to it.

More than 4,000 plants arrived Oct. 31 and crews began planting the following day.

Ann McLuckie, a wildlife biologist for DWR, said Wednesday that crews will be planting native shrubs and other flora that will provide cover and food for wildlife, such as mule deer and especially the desert tortoise.

They will also be installing cages to protect the young plants.

Volunteers are being sought for Nov. 4, according to a Facebook post by The Nature Conservancy.

“Volunteers are needed to help restore tortoise habitat hit by devastating wildfires in 2005 and 2006,” it reads. “Volunteers will attend a brief orientation and training at 9 a.m. before helping either with planting or with construction of chicken-wire cages to protect the plants.”

McLuckie added, “These revegetated plots will create fertile islands which will act as seed banks from which native plants can disperse to adjacent burned areas. These plots are located in critical habitat for desert tortoises, a federally protected species. Our efforts will help to restore habitat by providing food and shade to desert tortoises.”

If you are interested in volunteering, RSVP by email to Andrea Nelson at anelson@tnc.org. Maps and directions will be provided to volunteers, according to the post.

Volunteers should plan to wear field clothes, sun hat, sunglasses and closed-toe shoes (boots or sturdy sneakers), according to the post. They will need to bring a digging shovel, needle-nose pliers, wire cutters (if available), work gloves, sun block and a water bottle. Snacks and water will be provided.

Among the organizations involved in the effort, Conserve Southwest Utah and The Nature Conservancy are coordinating volunteer recruiting; American Conservation Experience interns will do the bulk of the planting under the direction of the BLM St. George Field Office, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and University of Nevada Las Vegas, according to the post.

Other project partners are U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative and the Washington County Habitat Conservation Plan.

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