Wetlands-What’s in a name?

Wetlands-What's in a name? Click to view larger view of a Pond and marsh showing wetland plants with Canada geese goslings and pelicans. Photo Courtesy and Copyright Mark Larese-Casanova
Pond and marsh showing
wetland plants with
Canada geese goslings and pelicans.
Courtesy & Copyright ©
Mark Larese-Casanova

Wetlands-What's in a name? Click to view larger view of Pickleweed growing in a salt playa is adapted to growing in saline soils. Photo Courtesy and Copyright Mark Larese-Casanova
Pickleweed growing in a salt playa
is adapted to growing in saline soils.
Courtesy & Copyright ©
Mark Larese-Casanova

Killdeer, the bird that lives dangerously:
Hi, this is Mark Larese-Casanova from the Utah Master Naturalist Program at Utah State University Extension.

A wetland really is more than just ‘land that is wet’. There are certain key ingredients that need to go into a wetland for it to truly be a wetland. Of course, water needs to be present for at least part of the growing season. It can simply be in the form of temporarily saturated soils or even standing water a few feet deep.

As soil becomes saturated with water, oxygen levels are greatly reduced. Quite often, bacteria in saturated soils will create hydrogen sulfide, giving wetland soils that stinky odor of rotten eggs. As plants grow in a wetland over several years, their decaying matter helps to create a thick, dark layer of organic soil.

The presence of water in a wetland encourages the growth of hydrophytes, or ‘water-loving’ plants, that are specially adapted to living in wet environments. Many wetland plants have open spaces within the leaves and stems- often referred to as aerenchyma. This allows oxygen to diffuse down to the roots, sometimes creating an oxygen-rich environment in the soil around a plant. Also, many wetland plants reproduce both by floating or wind-dispersed seeds and by rhizomes, which are underground roots that can travel great distances. Some plants that grow in salty wetlands around Great Salt Lake are able to control the salt in their tissues by depositing it on the outside of the leaf or containing it in chambers within their cells.

Like plants, specially adapted animals also call wetlands their home. Mammals and birds have oily fur or feathers that allow them to swim in cold water without losing much body heat. They also often have webbed feet to aid in swimming. Other animals, such as fish, amphibians, and insects, have gills to breathe in water.

Despite being the second driest state in the country, Utah has a high diversity of wetlands. Vast marshes surround the Great Salt Lake, providing habitat to enormous populations of migratory birds. Less obvious wet meadows provide unique habitat to butterflies and other insects. Salty playas which are shallow basins with no outlet, are found throughout the West Desert, creating unique ecosystems of highly adapted plants. Riparian wetlands can grow along the edges of rivers, providing a unique transition between the swift water and upland habitats. Southern Utah is home to some peculiar wetlands such as potholes and hanging gardens, both associated with sandstone bedrock. A hanging garden clings to the side of a moist cliff, creating a microhabitat for rare plants, such as orchids and monkeyflower. Potholes can simply be eroded basins in the sandstone where water collects in spring. A pothole is an oasis that provides water for desert wildlife and a home for fairy shrimp and spadefoot toads.

Spring is the perfect time of year to visit a wetland. The constant chorus of birds, insects, and amphibians are a testament to the importance of wetlands, teeming with life in the middle of a desert.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Mark Larese-Casanova.

Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright © Mark Larese-Casanova

Text:     Mark Larese-Casanova, Utah Master Naturalist Program at Utah State University Extension.
Additional Reading:

Mitsch, W.J., and J.W. Gosselink. (1993). Wetlands. Van Nostrand Rheinhold.

Tiner, R. W. (1999). Wetland Indicators: A Guide to Wetland Identification, Delineation, Classification, and Mapping. CRC Press

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. (1995). Playas to Marshes…Where Water Meets Land. Growing WILD Newsletter. http://www.wildlife.utah.gov/education/newsletters/95spring-gw.pdf

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. (2003). Utah’s Wonderful Wetlands Activity Guide. http://wildlife.utah.gov/education/pdf/wetlands_activity_guide.pdf

 

Killdeer, the bird that lives dangerously

Killdeer, the bird that lives dangerously

Killdeer on pebbles
Charadrius vociferus
Courtesy Wikipedia
Curt Hart, Photographer
Licensed under Creative Commons
Attribution 2.0 Generic license

 
Killdeer, the bird that lives dangerously
Killdeer nest on pebbles
Charadrius vociferus
Courtesy Wikipedia
Werther, Photographer
Courtesy US NPS and
J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah
Licensed under Creative Commons
Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Hi, this is Mark Larese-Casanova from the Utah Master Naturalist Program at Utah State University Extension.

The onset of springtime brings nesting birds in abundance. In the past week alone, blackbirds have been defending their territories in the marshes, goslings can be seen trailing behind their parents, and swallows are swooping and perching near their nests.
One bird that is impossible to ignore is the killdeer. Its call is loud, and easily recognizable.
[Audio Recording: Killdeer call http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm/singleitem
/collection/wss/id/2463/rec/3

Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License] It’s no coincidence that its scientific name is Charadrius vociferous.

Killdeer are a type of plover, similar to the snowy plovers that nest along the shores of Great Salt Lake. The killdeer, however, is well at home in dry upland habitats. The most peculiar characteristic of killdeer is that they are often seen and heard in the most unlikely of places- dirt roads, parking lots, or even construction sites.

Killdeer nest on open ground, digging just a shallow scrape in the soil. Gravel roads are often ideal nesting habitat because killdeer eggs blend in well with nearby pebbles. The spotted eggs and young hatchlings are very cryptic, invisible to the eye even when they are underfoot. This dangerous breeding strategy can often lead to trampled nests. Or, if a predator has a good sense of smell, the eggs and young are easily eaten.

Although, the killdeer has a trick up its sleeve (well… its wing)! When a predator, such as a fox, approaches the nest, the adult killdeer feigns a broken wing while walking away from its nest. This draws the attention of the predator, which thinks it’s found an easy meal, away toward the adult. Once it’s led the threat far enough from the nest, the adult killdeer takes off in flight, taunting the predator with its call.

It’s very hard to see a killdeer nest even when it’s obvious the adults are near it. Keep in mind, though, that time spent looking for a killdeer nest is time that the adults are not tending to the eggs or hatchlings, which puts their survival at risk. A bird that lives so dangerously can use all the help it can get.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Mark Larese-Casanova.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy Wikimedia, Curt Hart as well as Clinton & Charles Robertson, Photographers
Audio: Courtesy Marriott Library, University of Utah & US National Park Service
Text:     Mark Larese-Casanova, Utah Master Naturalist Program at Utah State University Extension.


Additional Reading:

Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Killdeer. All About Birds. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/killdeer/id

Tekiela, S. 2003. Birds of Utah. Adventure Publications, Inc. Cambridge, Minnesota.
http://www.amazon.com/Birds-Utah-Field-Guide-Tekiela/dp/1591930197

Utah Conservation Data Center. Killdeer. http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/rsgis2/Search/Display.asp?FlNm=charvoci/a>

The History of our National Forests

Click to view larger image of Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees clearing the land for soil conservation, Photo Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library (NLFDR)

Civilian Conservation Corps
enrollees clearing the land
for soil conservation
Photo Courtesy National Archive
Franklin D. Roosevelt Library (NLFDR)

Click to view larger image of Terraces near Mount Nebo Trailhead, Photo Courtesy & Copyright © 2011 Lyle W. Bingham, Photographer

Terraces near Mount Nebo trailhead
Payson Canyon
Photo Courtesy & Copyright © 2011
Lyle W. Bingham, Photographer

Click to view larger image of Albert Potter, Photo Courtesy USDA Forest Service, The Greatest Good Memorial Film Website http://www.fs.fed.us/greatestgood/

Albert Potter
Photo Courtesy USDA Forest Service
The Greatest Good
A Forest Service Centennial Film

Hi, this is Mark Larese-Casanova from the Utah Master Naturalist Program at Utah State University Extension.

The History
of our
National Forests

Warm springtime weather brings clear trails up in the mountains, and hiking through the shade of Douglas-fir on a warm weekend day had me wondering about Utah’s National Forests and how they came to be.

Back in the days of the early pioneers, Utah’s mountains were recognized as resources for survival, providing clean water for drinking and irrigation and lumber for building homes. The high mountain pastures were also valuable summer forage for livestock. In the late 1840’s, Parley Pratt declared, “The supply of pasture for grazing animals is without limit in every direction. Millions of people could live in these countries and raise cattle and sheep to any amount.” Many settlers shared this view, and unmanaged grazing resulted in deteriorated rangelands in just 20 to 30 years. By 1860, some Utah towns were experiencing regular flooding and heavy erosion due to insufficient vegetation to stabilize the soil. Unregulated wholesale timber harvesting during the same period also contributed to these conditions.

In 1881, the US Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry (later renamed the Forest Service) was established, and its first job was to gather information about the condition of the nation’s forests. In 1902, Albert F. Potter, who was the inspector of grazing for the General Land Office, conducted a survey of potential Forest Reserves in Utah. Potter stated that “the ranges of the State have suffered from a serious drought for several years past, and this, in addition to the very large number of livestock, especially of sheep, has caused the summer range to be left in a very barren…condition.”

The demand for lumber and wool during the First World War again led to increased timber harvesting and grazing on our forests. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to help implement conservation projects across the country. The CCC was fundamental in re-foresting much of the Wasatch and Uinta Mountain ranges, planting over three million trees in nine years.

Utah’s Forest Reserves were created in the years soon after Albert Potter’s surveys, and were gradually combined into Utah’s seven National Forests that now cover approximately 10,500,000 acres, or about 20%, of the state. Grazing and timber harvesting still occur on much of Utah’s National Forests, but our practices are supported by scientific research and over a century of experience, ensuring more sustainable multiple use and management of our forests today.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Mark Larese-Casanova.

Credits:

Images: Courtesy National Archives, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library

and Courtesy and Copyright © 2011 Lyle W. Bingham

Text:     Mark Larese-Casanova, Utah Master Naturalist Program at Utah State University Extension.
Additional Reading:

Baldridge, K.W. The Civilian Conservation Corps in Utah. Utah History To Go.
http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/from_war_to_war/thecivilianconservationcorps.html

Prevedel, D.A., and C.M. Johnson. 2005. Beginnings of Range Management: Albert F. Potter, First Chief of Grazing, U.S. Forest Service, and a Photographic Comparison of his 1902 Forest Reserve Survey in Utah with Conditions 100 Years Later. United States Department of Agriculture, US Forest Service. R4-VM 2005-01. http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs_other/r4_vm20005_01.pdf

 

CCC Camps in Utah, CCClegacy.org http://www.ccclegacy.org/CCC_Camps_Utah.html

The Colorado River Compact, Saving Water for Utah

Colorado Compact Coverage, Courtesy AZwater.gov, http://www.azwater.gov/AzDWR/StatewidePlanning/CRM/images/map_main_large.jpg
Colorado Compact Coverage
Courtesy AZwater.gov

Hoover Dam, Courtesy AZwater.gov, http://www.azwater.gov/AzDWR/StateWidePlanning/CRM/LawoftheRiver.htmHoover Dam
Courtesy AZwater.gov

Hi, this is Mark Larese-Casanova from the Utah Master Naturalist Program at Utah State University Extension.

The Colorado River Compact, written into law almost a century ago, helped ensure our survival in Utah today. We all know that Utah is a dry state. In fact, Utah is the second driest state in the country, with only Nevada being drier. Our average annual precipitation varies widely, from as low as a few inches a year near St. George, to as high as 60 inches in the mountains. Since most of our water comes from mountain snow, we rely on rivers and streams to deliver it to us.

The Colorado and Green Rivers, the largest in Utah, carry water from the Rocky, Wasatch, and Uinta Mountain ranges throughout Utah and the Intermountain West. The Colorado River Basin, the area of land from which the Colorado River and its tributaries drain water, covers the eastern half of Utah, along with the western half of Colorado, almost all of Arizona, and small parts of Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada, and California. Each of these states has a dry climate, and water from the Colorado has always been in high demand.

In the heavily populated eastern United States, the right to use water often adheres to Riparian Doctrine in which water is shared by all those who live along the body of water. However, the western US was settled at different times, and populations are more sparse. So, water rights generally follow the doctrine of Prior Appropriation. That is, the water is set aside for whoever is able to use it first. The only problem is that California was developed earlier than the other states in the basin, and therefore, as the US Supreme Court ruled in 1922, was legally entitled to more than their fair share of the water! In this case, western water law simply didn’t work. So, all 7 states in the Colorado River Basin sat down together with the US Government and negotiated the Colorado River Compact to ensure that Utah and the other Upper Basin states were entitled to as much water each year as California and the other Lower Basin states that were growing at a faster rate.

So there you have it- one key piece of legislation helping to save civilization in Utah. Except, well, the amounts of water each state is entitled to was based on an abnormally high year of water flow… and, so, there often isn’t enough water to go around… and Mexico doesn’t seem to get much water at all. OK, so the Colorado River Compact isn’t perfect, but it’s important. To ensure that we all truly have enough water, it will take compromise, conservation, and a whole lot of common sense.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Mark Larese-Casanova.

Credits:

Images: Courtesy AZwater.gov
Text:     Mark Larese-Casanova

Additional Reading:

Gelt, J. Sharing Colorado River Water: History, Public Policy and the Colorado River Compact. Water Resources Research Center. https://wrrc.arizona.edu/publications/arroyo-newsletter/sharing-colorado-river-water-history-public-policy-and-colorado-river

US Bureau of Reclamation. The Colorado River Compact. https://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/pao/pdfiles/crcompct.pdf

US Bureau of Reclamation. The Law of the River. http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/g1000/lawofrvr.html

Water Education Foundation. 1922-2007: 85 Years of the Colorado River Compact. http://www.watereducation.org/western-water-excerpt/1922-2007-85-years-colorado-river-compact