Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve Re-Opens to Public

Partners & Friends Helped Restore Damage from Fire & Flood

Moab, UT | October 11, 2011

The Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve is once again open to visitors following a temporary closure due to damage from the fire and flood that occurred in June.   Over the summer, local partners and supporters worked together to clear debris and dead vegetation from key areas within the preserve, and plant new native trees and shrubs to begin to restore the ecosystem. 

“We are so grateful for the response and support from the community and from our partners,” said Linda Whitham, the Conservancy’s Central Canyonlands Program Manager. “Thanks to donations, hard work and strategic restoration efforts, the preserve can once again serve as a public resource and a safe haven for wildlife.” 

On June 6 and 7, a wildfire west of Moab burned roughly 65 acres of vegetation and damaged portions of the preserve’s trail system, bridge and interpretive exhibits. Thanks to a rapid respond from interagency fire fighters, the blaze was contained within two days.

But on June 9, another catastrophic event struck as flood waters from the Colorado River entered the preserve and swept through most of the 900 acres, damaging trails, washing out stretches of the boardwalk and bird blind, and leaving numerous dead fish carcasses strewn throughout the area.

“It’s been a challenging summer for the preserve,” said Whitham. “We usually welcome floods as important natural events that bring nutrients, native seeds and waters to the wetlands. But this year, the flood brought unusually high and sustained flows.”  The waters submerged the preserve and its structures for a prolonged period of time, causing more damage to trails, which will need to be reinforced and graded to restore adequate access for visitors.

Managers from The Nature Conservancy and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), which jointly oversee the preserve, quickly put together plans for restoration and repair, much of which has been conducted by or donated by local supporters and partners.

Canyonlands Conservation Youth Corps spent a week in early July cleaning up debris, clearing out brush and topping burned trees.   Ryan Barker, Revegetation Manager for the Moab UNTRA Project and the Department of Energy,  donated his time to help drill 186 pounds of native seed over 13 scorched acres near the entrance of the preserve to revegetate these areas. The native seed was donated by the UDWR.  Local volunteer Gerrish Willis has donated his time and carpentry skills to repair extensive damage to the bird blind and boardwalk. 

The Conservancy and UDWR are joining forces now to replace and repair signs, sections of trail and boardwalk damaged by the fire and flood.

Local Residents: There will be a volunteer day in on November 11 to plant thousands of native plants in the burned areas.  Stay tuned for more information or contact Linda Whitham at 435-259-4629.

Restoration projects in the Matheson Preserve help to support the goals of the Southeast Utah Tamarisk Partnership. The partnership is composed of over 25 agencies, organizations, businesses, non-profits, and individuals who live and work near or on the Colorado River in southeastern Utah and is committed to restoring, protecting and maintaining healthy riparian lands.

The Matheson Preserve is jointly managed by the Conservancy and UDWR to protect important ecological values and wildlife habitat, and to serve as a public education resource to the community.  The Preserve spans 900 acres of critical habitat and supports more than 200 species of birds, amphibians and aquatic mammals such as the beaver, muskrat and elusive river otter.

For questions or further information, please call 435-259-4241.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

Contact information

Linda Whitham
Central Canyonlands Program Manager

Larisa Barry
Director of Marketing

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