Conservationists begin to remove thousands of invasive trees at the Bear River Massacre Site

Oct 17, 2022, 6:03 PM | Updated: Oct 18, 2022, 11:34 am
Workers begin to remove the invasive 
Russian olive trees (Mike Anderson KSL-TV)...
Workers begin to remove the invasive Russian olive trees (Mike Anderson KSL-TV)
(Mike Anderson KSL-TV)

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Idaho — Restoration of the Bear River Massacre Site is underway Monday as some 400,000 invasive trees will be removed.

It’s all part of a process that the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone calls “a healing of the land” and a blessing to have on workers who will spend dozens of hours working on the project.

“We think it bonds us together. We think that those spiritual blessings create a community,” said Brad Parry, vice chair of Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.

Parry is grateful that this project has drawn state leaders’ attention from Utah and Idaho.

As the Utah Conservation Corps starts tearing down hundreds of thousands of invasive Russian olive trees, it’s the first step in returning these traditional wintering grounds to what they would have looked like before the Bear River Massacre in 1863.

“It’s overwhelming. It’s a good day today,” Parry said. “The feeling on the land is beginning to change to one of peace and happiness, whereas before, it was a lot of sorrow.”

An indigenous tribe elder blessing the workers. (Mike Anderson, KSL-TV)

Conservationists say just one Russian olive tree can take in 75 gallons of water a day, and there are about 400,000 of them on the land.

Around 150,000 native trees and plants will be put back, and some 13,000 square acre-feet of water will be sent into the Great Salt Lake once more.

It’s an approach that’s now gaining international attention.

“It was well-received. It was something that they probably never heard a lot of,” said Darren Parry, former tribe chair of Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.

Darren is back from Denmark, where he was invited to share indigenous wisdom with a room of environmental scientists.

“All the science in the world isn’t going to solve selfish behaviors. And I think the indigenous perspective on how we live our life will help craft the policy going forward,” Darren said.

The fact that people are watching is bringing hope that all of us can take more personal responsibility for the environment.

“This is a really important day for us,” Brad expressed.

Over $6 million in grants and other funding is going towards the rehabilitation of the site here, but the tribe is still looking to raise about $5 million more for an interpretive center up above.

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Conservationists begin to remove thousands of invasive trees at the Bear River Massacre Site