Peru

I just returned from two weeks in the Peruvian Andes conducting field work on high elevation wetlands and how they were responding to impacts from livestock grazing in a changing climate. We were in the Huascaran National Park, the highest part of the Andes with many peaks soaring above 20,000 feet. Our Colorado State U. group was joined by students and faculty from 4 other campuses and the international Mountain Institute. These wetlands, or bofedales in Peruvian jargon, are essential in providing quality water for the thousands who reside below.

Kings Peak Highest Peak in Utah 13,528 feet ASL Courtesy USDA Forest Service
Kings Peak
Highest Peak in Utah 13,528 feet ASL
Courtesy USDA Forest Service
Having spent many forays into our magnificent High Uintah Mountains, I found myself reflecting on ecological and cultural parallels. Although our highest Kings peak at 13,528 feet was far below Mount Huascaran’s 22,205 foot elevation, its bold loftiness provides a similar experience as would standing on the Huascaran’s summit. A departure results from the highly glaciated Huascaran. Our Uintahs lost their glaciers around 8000 years ago from a warming climate. Unfortunately, Huascaran’s glaciers are following suit having lost nearly 30% over the past three decades. These changes were being compounded by poorly managed hordes of livestock which had overgrazed much of the landscape.

Wild Flowers in Tony Grove Meadow Courtesy USDA Forest Service Teresa Prendusi, Photographer
Wild Flowers in Tony Grove Meadow
Courtesy USDA Forest Service
Teresa Prendusi, Photographer
Our primary focus was on changing vegetation, invertebrate populations, and water quality. At the peak of Peru’s dry, winter season, I wasn’t expecting to see much in bloom. To my delight, I recorded nearly 30 species of flowers in both woody and herbaceous form. Tomorrow I will be leading a nature hike in the wetlands and uplands of Tony Grove Lake here in our Bear River Range where I expect a like number in bloom combined with a plethora of butterflies and birds.

Although virtually all of the Andean flowers were new to me, there were similar families and genera. Of special note was a shrubby form of lupine growing to 5 feet, and another, exquisite columnar form approaching 6 feet found only in this national park. “Taulli Macho” is the local name for this splendid plant. “Macho” is a great descriptor!

Birds and butterflies were no less baffling. All were new to my life list- Pona ibis, Andean Condors, giant coot, tufted duck, Andean flicker, giant humming bird, on and on. Senses overwhelmed. I missed the familiar sights and songs from our mountain birds- Clark’s nutcrackers, Steller jays, Cassin’s finch, pine siskins, violet green swallows, mountain bluebirds to name a few.

Grazing at Fishlake in Utah Courtesy USDA Forest Service
Grazing at Fishlake in Utah
Courtesy USDA Forest Service
I did a bit of research on our High Uintahs and found some parallels related to climate change and livestock management. Although not as profound as calving glaciers in the Andes, or hordes of free ranging livestock, a continued loss of our snow pack and resulting changes in hydrology compounded by certain livestock grazing practices are under close scrutiny by agencies and others. A recent publication “Assessment of Watershed Vulnerability to Climate Change for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache and Ashley National Forests, Utah” published by the United States Department of Agriculture has much to offer.

This is Jack Greene, and you guessed it- I’m Wild about Utah!!

Credits:

Images: Courtesy USDA Forest Service, Photographers noted, where available, for each image
Text:     Jack Greene

Sources & Additional Reading:

Rice, Janine; Bardsley, Tim; Gomben, Pete; Bambrough, Dustin; Weems, Stacey; Leahy, Sarah; Plunkett, Christopher; Condrat, Charles; Joyce, Linda A. 2017. Assessment of watershed vulnerability to climate change for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache and Ashley National Forests, Utah. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-362. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 111 p., https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/54330

Slots, Els, World Heritage Site for World Heritage Travellers, https://www.worldheritagesite.org/list/Huascaran+National+Park

Huascarán National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/333

Poetry of the Forest

Poetry of the Forest: Fall Colors along the Nebo Loop between Payson, UT and HWY 132 between Nephi and Fountain Green. Courtesy USDA Forest Service
Fall Colors along the Nebo Loop between Payson, UT and HWY 132 between Nephi and Fountain Green.
Courtesy USDA Forest Service

There are people who can capture beautiful scenery by painting on canvas, using film photography, and with digital technology. And these forms of art can be visually stunning. But there is a unique perspective of visualizing when written words are read, allowing one’s mind to see not only the exterior of a scene, but the interior heart intended by the writer.

What memories does your mind recall as you listen to the words of these renowned authors about the poetry of the forest?

  • Robert Louis Stevenson – …it is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of the air, that emanation from the old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.
  • John Fowles – In some mysterious way woods have never seemed to me to be static things. In physical terms, I move through them, yet in metaphysical ones, they seem to move through me.
  • Walt Whitman – Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
  • William Wordsworth – One impulse from a vernal wood may teach you more of man, of moral evil and of good, than all the sages can.
  • Marcel Proust – We have nothing to fear and a great deal to learn from trees, that vigorous and Pacific tribe which without stint produces strengthening essences for us, soothing balms, and in whose gracious company we spend so many cool, silent and intimate hours.
  • Washington Irving – As the leaves of trees are said to absorb all noxious qualities of the air, and to breathe forth a purer atmosphere, so it seems to me as if they drew from us all sordid and angry passions and breathed forth peace and philanthropy. There is a severe and settled majesty in woodland scenery that enters into the soul, and dilates and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations.
  • James Henry Leigh Hunt – They refresh the commonplaces of life, shed a harmony through the busy discord, and appeal to those first sources of emotion, which are associated with the remembrance of all that is young and innocent. They seem also to present us with a portion of the tranquility we think we are laboring for.
  • Harold Monro – One summer afternoon, you find some lonely trees. Persuade your mind to drowse. Then, as your eyelids close, and you still hover into those three stages of a darkening doze, this side the barrier of sleep,…..pause. In that last clear moment open quick your sight toward where the green is bright and thick. Be sure that everything you keep to dream with is made out of trees.

    Plantng a Tree Coutesy USDA Forest Service
    Plantng a Tree
    Coutesy USDA Forest Service
    *Lucy Larcom – He who plants a tree plants a hope.

  • Henry David Thoreau – In wildness is the preservation of the world. Silence alone is worthy to be heard.
  • English Proverb – He that plants trees loves others beside himself.

     
    Credits:
    Text: Excerpts from the book, “The Forest”, compiled by Michelle Lovric https://www.amazon.co.uk/Forest-Poetry-Earth-Michelle-Levric/dp/1561385077
    Images: Courtesy USDA Forest Service
    Collector & Reader: Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association

    Additional Reading

    Lovric, Michelle, The Forest, A Celebration of Nature, In Word and Image, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Forest-Poetry-Earth-Michelle-Levric/dp/1561385077

    Poems about Trees, Academy of American Poets, https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/poems-about-trees

    Search for Poems about Trees, Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/search?query=trees

  • Shrubby-Reed Mustard: The Best Little Plant You’ve Never Heard of (Aug 2016)

    Shrubby-Reed Mustard Bush, Hesperidanthus suffrutescens
    Shrubby-Reed Mustard Bush
    Hesperidanthus suffrutescens
    Courtesy & Copyright Matt Lewis

    Shrubby-Reed Mustard Blossoms, Hesperidanthus suffrutescens Shrubby-Reed Mustard Blossoms
    Hesperidanthus suffrutescens
    Courtesy & Copyright Matt Lewis

    Shrubby-Reed Mustard Blossoms Closeup, Hesperidanthus suffrutescens Shrubby-Reed Mustard Blossoms
    Hesperidanthus suffrutescens
    Courtesy & Copyright Matt Lewis

    Tucked into isolated pockets of the Uintah Basin’s arid wildlands is the best little plant you’ve never heard of. Known to exist only in Duchesne and Uintah Counties, Shrubby-reed Mustard seems to occupy only the semi-barren “islands” of white shale in areas of the Green River Formation’s Evacuation Creek region. The endangered plant features thick, almost succulent, blue-green leaves and small yellow flowers.

    “The habitat of Shrubby-reed Mustard is visually striking,” says USU alum Matt Lewis, a botanist with the Bureau of Land Management in Vernal, Utah. “It grows in very shallow, fine-textured soils and shale fragments that form narrow bands in the desert shrub community.”

    Among the first plants to flower in spring, the perennial herb is visited by large number of insects, including many native bee species that forage for pollen. Scientists believe these bees may be critical in the plant’s reproduction and survival.

    Lewis says the plant, also known as Toad-Flax Cress and Uintah Basin Waxfruit, offers an understated beauty to the stark landscape. With a shrub-like form and multiple stems, Shrubby-reed Mustard grows to about 20 centimeters in height. Its leaves, which feel almost like leather, change to a bright purple in the fall.

    The plant is also enticingly fragrant, Lewis says. “Its scent reminds me of roses mixed with apples and pears.”

    Despite its fragile status, Shrubby-reed Mustard is a long-lived plant. USU ecologist Geno Schupp says some individual plants may be one hundred years old.

    The elusive species has outlived scientists’ attempts to classify it and has undergone several taxonomic changes. It currently boasts the scientific name Hesperidanthus suffrutescens, placing it solidly in the mustard family.

    Lewis knows of no history of Shrubby-reed Mustard as a culinary or medicinal herb, though documented reports of such uses for mustard plants date back to ancient times. The plant appears to provide welcome forage for some four-legged creatures, he says, as he recently witnessed plants that had been grazed completely and ripped from the ground.

    “Whether that was due to livestock or native ungulates, I’m not sure.”

    Credits:
    Images: Courtesy & Copyright Matt Lewis
    Text:     Mary-Ann Muffoletto, Utah State University College of Natural Resources
    Credits:
    Matt Lewis, botanist, Bureau of Land Management, Vernal, Utah.
    Eugene “Geno” Schupp, professor, USU Department of Wildland Resources.

    Additional Reading:

    http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/factsheets/ShrubbyReed-mustardFactSheet.pdf

    http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/plants/shrubbyreedmustard/5YearReview2010.pdf

    Sacred Mountains

    White Pine Lake hike., Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart
    White Pine Lake hike., Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

    Devil's Staircase, Tony Grove, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart Devil’s Staircase, Tony Grove, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

    False Hellebore/Corn lily (Veratrum californicum), Tony Grove, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart False Hellebore/Corn lily (Veratrum californicum), Tony Grove, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

    White Pine Lake and Mount Magog, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart White Pine Lake and Mount Magog, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

    Police Car Moth on Rob Garrett's thumb, White Pine Lake hike. Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart Police Car Moth on Rob Garrett’s thumb, White Pine Lake hike.
    Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

    Elephanthead Lousewort (Pedicularis groenlandica), White Pine Lake hike. Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart Elephanthead Lousewort (Pedicularis groenlandica), White Pine Lake hike.
    Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

    White Pine Lake and Mount Magog, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart White Pine Lake and Mount Magog, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

    Rob & Jack & big tree, Limber Pine hike Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart Rob & Jack & big tree, Limber Pine hike
    Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

    Beaver Dam at USU Forestry Camp (LCFS hike) Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart Beaver Dam at USU Forestry Camp (LCFS hike)
    Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

    Jack in 560 year old Limber Pine tree 7/27/16 Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart Jack in 560 year old Limber Pine tree 7/27/16
    Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

    I just completed teaching a 5 day Utah Master Naturalist course through USU extension on Utah mountains. The course allowed me to revisit the immense influence these lofty lumps in the earth’s crust have had on my life, and the life of so many others.

    It was mountains that drew me here from the flatlands of Michigan. They have become my main source of spiritual renewal, of aesthetic pleasure and recreation. I run, ski, and hike their trails, explore their hidden canyons and forests, revel in the rich tapestry of wildlife and wildflowers that adorns their slopes, and at present, need I say, seek relief from summer’s heat.

    Having served 11 seasons as a seasonal Wilderness ranger for the USFS, I was able to explore much of the backcountry in the Bear River and Wellsville mountains of N. Utah. Beyond these, I’ve been atop Kings peak, the Lasals, Abajos, Cedar and Pine Valley Mountains, the Raft Rivers, and many of our high plateaus. But this is small potatoes considering Wikipedia lists 65 others yet to be explored in our state.

    Mountains are what we are. Without them, Brigham Young and the Saints would have continued their exodus on to other parts of the west for the rich resources they bless us with.
    Mountains = water. This liquid gift provides over 80% of Utah’s water as they do for most other western states. In the early years, they offered timber and rock for structures, including temples, tabernacles, and other historic buildings. Cool breezes followed canyons down to give relief from intense summer heat, and grew forage for cattle and sheep. The Oquirrh mountains on the west edge of Salt Lake valley are host to one of the world’s richest mines yielding approximately 25 percent of the country’s copper, 12 tons of gold, and 120 tons of silver each year.

    Going beyond Utah and the west, it is water from mountain glaciers that support over 2 billion people in India, China and several middle east/Eurasian countries. With rapidly receding glaciers from a warming planet, this has become a grave concern.
    On a lessor note, I recently accompanied a group of college students on a YNP pica inventory to follow their population trends as they are being impacted by a changing climate.
    I’ll conclude with an 1877 quote from early American naturalist John Muir upon first entering the Salt Lake valley.

    “The mountains rise grandly round about this curious city, the Zion of the new Saints, so grandly that the city itself is hardly visible. The Wasatch range, snow-laden and adorned with glacier-sculpted peaks, stretches continuously along the eastern horizon, forming the boundary of the Great Salt Lake basin; while across the valley of the Jordan southwestward from here, you behold the Oquirrh Range, about as snowy and lofty as the Wasatch.

    The glacial developments of these superb ranges are sharply sculpted peaks and crests, with ample wombs between them where the ancient snows of the glacial period where collected and transformed into ice, and ranks of profound shadowy canyons, while moraines commensurate with the lofty fountains extend into the valleys, forming far the grandest series of glacial monuments I have yet seen this side of the Sierra.”

    This is Jack Greene reading and writing for Wild About Utah.

    Credits:
    Images: Courtesy and Copyright Hilary Shughart
    Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon Society
    Additional Reading:

    Wasatch Mountains, History to Go, Utah.gov, http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/the_land/wasatchmountains.html

    Geology of Utah, History to Go, Utah.gov, http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/the_land/geologyofutah.html

    Logan Ranger District, USDA Forest Service, http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/uwcnf/recarea/?recid=8985