Last ride for Dinosaur’s original Weed Warrior

Jul 14, 2017, 12:37 PM | Updated: 3:22 pm

Follow @ashergrey...

JENSEN, Uintah County — The Yampa River is wild, untamed. It’s home to some of the west’s most jaw-dropping desert scenery and has big, dangerous whitewater.

Every year, thousands of people enter a lottery, hoping for a permit that will grant them a chance to dip their oars in the Yampa or in the Green through Lodore Canyon. Those two rivers join into one, right at the heart of Dinosaur National Monument.

Ever since the mid 1900s, a plant imported from Asia has made a terrible mess of the river banks.

“It was so aggressive it that really pushed out a lot of native species that the native wildlife depends on,” said NPS ecologist Tamara Naumann.

She 22 years ago dedicated herself to the cause of combating tamarisk and reclaiming infested beaches.

“In the early years, people would float by and say ‘hey, you’re wasting my tax dollars. You’re emptying the ocean with a thimble. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen’. I thought ‘at least I’m not sitting on the couch, I’m trying to make it better’,” Naumann said.

That spirit proved infectious. Naumann started getting attention from boaters who wanted to help. Each summer they teamed up to float down the Green and Yampa, braving white water and weather – only to then spend days working with shovels and saws.

“They show up with their own boats and they bring their own food and they’ll work a 10 or 11 hour day in 100-degree heat in the mosquitoes. And they come back the next year and do the same, which is quite astonishing,” Naumann said.

Their work has paid off. Over the last two decades, campsites have re-emerged where before tamarisk formed an impenetrable wall. Native willows have re-established themselves, providing critical habitat for birds and other animals.

“We’re not going to get rid of these noxious weeds or the things that are introduced, but you have to learn how to manage it,” volunteer Ben Beall said.

Beall, a member of the group Friends of the Yampa, has been coming back to volunteer, year after year. His sons, who started coming as children, are now grown men. Some other volunteer families are now three generations in.

“I think the tamarisk is something we don’t need to worry about as much now as we did 22 years ago, so that feels good,” Naumann said. But she’s nearing retirement. “My goal is to finish what I started and it’s not up to me what happens next. I’m sure other young people with different ideas will come along and have some new inspiring thing.”

Naumann made the last trip of her career down the rivers in June. It’s not clear if anyone else at the monument will pick up the torch once she leaves.

“We’re hoping it’s not an end of an era. Friends of the Yampa is looking at kind of like taking over some of the work… I think it will carry on,” Beall said.

That’s an encouraging hope. At a time when the West seems torn over issues of the environment and public lands, the Weed Warriors have quietly shown another way – collaboration instead of confrontation.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

FILE - A skier turns through the trees at Powder Mountain. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)...

Mariah Maynes

Strong winds cause ski lift holds, Powder Mountain cancels day skiing March 2

Powder Mountain announced that day skiing will be closed tomorrow following strong winds. The announcement came as resorts across the state experienced impacted lift operations due to the gusts. 

8 hours ago

(Utah State Capitol.  Photo: Paul Nelson)...

Mariah Maynes

Gov. Cox not planning to veto any 2024 legislative session bills

As the 2024 Utah legislative session draws to a close, Gov. Cox said he is not planning to veto any bills. 

9 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at a Republican campaign ...

WILL WEISSERT Associated Press

Haley says she raised $12M in February, can’t point to long-term plan to beat Trump

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said Friday that she raised $12 million in February, a haul that will likely allow her to remain in the Republican primary against former President Donald Trump past next week's Super Tuesday — even though she can't point to an upcoming state where she expects to beat him.

9 hours ago

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Scot Peterson shown, a school arming school staff is aw...

Curt Gresseth

Lawmaker talks about arming school workers, despite studies saying guards don’t prevent gun violence

Arming school workers will lead to safer schools, says a Utah lawmaker whose bill awaits the governor's pen to become law.

12 hours ago

Chief of Police for Price City Police Department, Brandon Sicilie, holding PeeDee....

Britt Johnson

Abandoned puppy finds a home at the Price Police Department

PeeDee, a puppy found on the side of a roadway during a dispatch call, has found a new home with the Price City Police Department.

14 hours ago

great salt lake shown, a bill to preserve the lake has passed...

Adam Small

Utah Legislature passes massive bill aimed at helping Great Salt Lake

This bill subjects mineral extraction companies to the same rules as every other water user in Great Salt Lake Basin.

15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Last ride for Dinosaur’s original Weed Warrior