Native Plants - header
Lisa Winters

Where We Work - Section Title

Where we work

Native Plants - Where we work (images)

Johnson Lakes

Johnson Lakes

800 acres of private land within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Learn more ›

Pando Clone

Pando Clone

The largest aspen clone in the world, located in Utah's Fishlake National Forest. Learn more ›

Huntington Creek

Left Fork Huntington Creek

A fenced reference area in Utah's Manti-La Sal National Forest that is not grazed. Learn more ›

Native Plants - why matter

What are native plants, and why do they matter?

Native plants occur naturally and have evolved to the specific locales in which they grow. They attract colorful arrays of butterflies and bees, provide food and cover for voles, harrier chicks, fawns, and other animals, and help cool the water in streams. Native plants are important components of healthy and balanced ecosystems.

Springs - What we do (header)

What we do

Native Plants - what we do (images)

Identifying native plants

Remove invasive species

Across the Colorado Plateau, non-native plants, like thistles and houndstongue, push out native vegetation. We pull out certain invasives so that native plants have a chance to reclaim their ground. Over time, we expect the proportions of non-native and native plants to shift in favor of the diverse native flora.

Plant transects

Collect data on grazing impacts

Fences are just as good at keeping animals out as they are at keeping them in. We use reference areas, which were once heavily grazed, to track the recovery of native species when cattle, deer, elk, and sheep are fenced out. We study the variety of plants that replace non-natives, and count how many of each species we find.


Native Plants - Pando dying

Weeding with a purpose

The largest living organism known on Earth is struggling to stay alive. Why?

Native Plants - Pando explained

Aspen stands are clones, with genetically identical trees — a "one-tree forest" that sends up new sprouts from its roots. So what looks like a stand of hundreds to thousands of individual trees is actually one organism, connected by a single root system. The Pando Clone (meaning “I spread”) is around 40,000 stems, covering 106 acres in Fishlake National Forest and weighing nearly 13 million pounds. But the clone of century-old trees is in serious decline, as animals are chomping down the new shoots faster than they can grow.

We work in plots within the clone where deer and cattle are fenced out, giving young aspen a chance to grow into mature trees. We return to these areas each year to pull invasive thistles and houndstongue and monitor the aspen’s new growth. 

Marra Clay

Native Plants - Johnson Lakes (detail)

Johnson Lakes Canyon

Transforming overgrazed pastures into wildlife paradise.

Native Plants - Rick and Susie

Rick and Susie Knezevich, the owners of 800 acres of cattle-free land in southern Utah, have an admirable goal: leave the land better than they found it. Several years ago, they teamed up with the Trust, put their land in a conservation easement, and have been working with our volunteers to restore their property and study its recovery.

Surrounded by Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Johnson Lakes Canyon is a laboratory for restoration experiments and projects. It also serves as a lesson in the recovery that is possible when cattle are kept off the land.  

What the recovery looks like

Native cottonwoods and willows are thriving, biological soil crusts cover entire hillsides, red-tailed hawks nest, and water birds drop by during their travels. Trust volunteers have been helping remove invasive species in Johnson Lakes Canyon since 2014. We also bring scientists out for bioblitzes to document the plant and animal life gradually coming back to the property. Take a look at what we've found ›

What's living in Johnson Lakes Canyon?

Jonathan Barth
Andrey Zharkikh
Jonathan Barth
Andrey Zharkikh
Jonathan Barth
Jonathan Barth
Andrey Zharkikh
Andrey Zharkikh
Morgan Heim

Native plants - where cows don't graze

Where cows don't graze: crowd-sourced data collection

We teach you what to look for, then set you loose to document the health of our public lands.

Native plants - where cows don't graze (text)

Cowpies are the telltale sign of cattle grazing on our public lands. But trained eyes pick up on other clues, like eroded streambanks, bare ground, browsed plants, and damaged biological soil crusts.

We’re teaching volunteers to spot the differences between grazed and non-grazed public lands and sending them off to photograph and report on areas closed to livestock on the Colorado Plateau. "Where Cows Don’t Graze" is a multi-year project to map areas closed to livestock grazing, but we need your help to cover all that ground. The information you collect will help us advocate for grazing reform across the plateau.

Join us ›

Volunteers in Action Blog


Volunteers gathered in forest meadows and desert washes, eagerly lending their time and expertise to protecting the plateau this year.

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Some good old-fashioned weed removal helps scientists understand what healthy forests look like.

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Grand Canyon Trust volunteers document pinyon jay sightings to help protect the pinyon and juniper forests they rely on.

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