Native Plants - header
Lisa Winters

Where We Work - Section Title

Where we work

Native Plants - Where we work (images)

Johnson Lakes

Johnson Lakes

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

Aspen trees that are part of the Pando Clone in Utah

Pando Clone

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

Huntington Creek

Huntington Creek

A fenced reference area in Utah's Manti-La Sal National Forest with a stream system and rare species.

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 mice, birds, 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)

A volunteer pulls weeds in the Pando Clone

Pull weeds

We pull weeds so that native plants have the chance to reclaim their ground. Each year, we bag and remove fewer and fewer weeds — a sign that the balance is shifting in favor of native plants.

Volunteers fix a fence in Utah

Build and fix fences

Volunteers build and fix fences to keep cattle, deer, elk, and sheep out of certain areas. These so-called "reference areas" give overgrazed lands a chance to heal and help us track the recovery of native species.

Blake McCord

Native Plants - Pando dying

Weeding with a purpose

One of the largest living organisms 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 ›

Johnson Lakes Canyon native species

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


Pronghorn and barbed wire fences don't mix, but volunteers are working to change that, one wire at a time.

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Four fascinating facts about pinyon jays that will have you ready to birdwatch in the name of conservation.

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Volunteers do the heavy lifting so native plants and wildlife have healthy water sources in the forest.

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