Wildfires

Wildfires: Smoke roils from 2012 wildfire in Utah. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.
Smoke roils from 2012 wildfire in Utah. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.
Wildfires hit record highs this year in the Western U.S. There can be arguments blaming Climate Change or Forest Management. Were they caused by human carelessness or natural causes such as lightning? Take your pick. But the results were tragic.

Through August this year, Utah has had nearly 1,300 fires which burned nearly a quarter million acres and cost $100 million dollars.

Nationally, 90% of wildfires are human-caused from unattended campfires, discarded cigarettes, mismanaged debris fires and planned acts of arson. And the cost of those fires exceeded $5 billion dollars over the last 10 years. From January to August in 2018 there were nearly 39,000 different fires that burned over 5 million acres.

Much has been said about those tragic statistics that affect the loss of human life, the destruction of developed properties, the discomforts of evacuations, and the enormous costs and dangers of fighting fires as the horrible results of these runaway infernos. But, what about next year? Will the drought continue? Will the climate continue to set record temperatures?

Burned Stumps & Ashes Courtesy & Copyright Friend Weller, Photographer
Burned Stumps & Ashes
Courtesy & Copyright Friend Weller, Photographer
One of the consequences that has not been discussed much is the loss of millions of trees. What can we expect when living trees are turned into burned stumps and ashes?

The major greenhouse gas in our atmosphere is Carbon Dioxide. It is called a green house gas because it warms the earth’s temperature. Carbon dioxide is produced by the burning of fossil fuels or trees, chemical reactions such as the manufacture of cement, and the exhaling of animals. It is removed from the atmosphere when it is absorbed by land-plants and the ocean as part of the biological carbon cycle. The role the ocean plays in the carbon cycle is a topic for another program.

It is the loss of trees that we will consider now.
I will mention only a few of the many benefits trees provide.

You may recall from biology class that the trees take-in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Forest fires require oxygen to burn, and we require oxygen to live. This year, we have already lost 5 million acres of oxygen production.

There are trees, such as the Lodgepole Pine, which have serotinous cones which release their seeds during the intense heat of forest fires. But it will take 40 years for those seeds to
grow into mature trees.

Another consideration is the loss of trees along hillsides and mountain slopes. When rain or snow hits those barren areas there can be massive soil erosion. This not only pollutes the streams and rivers below, but eliminates the top layer of soil where new seeds would best survive.

Besides the loss of human homes, there is the loss of wildlife habitat to consider. IF animals were able to escape massive fires, they must then find suitable habitat, which may encroach on human developments.

Then there is the loss of shade. Barren land will be more susceptible to collecting heat from the sun’s rays, which then will cause more heating of the atmosphere.

So, what can we do about this? First, be extremely careful with fire; Second, plant trees in your communities; Third, contact your local Ranger District or U.S. Forest Service to see if you can volunteer in tree planting projects.

This is Ron Hellstern, and I am Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:

Images: Courtesy USDA Forest Service,
https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/compass/2013/05/28/climate-change-and-wildfire/
Text: Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association

Additional Reading

USDA Forest Service Offices:
Region 4: Intermountain Region
Federal Building
324 25th Street
Ogden, UT 84401
801-625-5605
[Job & Volunteering] Connections, https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/r4/jobs
Volunteer Opportunities, https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/r4/jobs/volunteer

Volunteer, TreeUtah, http://treeutah.org/volunteer/

Outka-Perkins, Lisa, Welcome to the Forest Service: A Guide for Volunteers, USDA Forest Service, Feb 2009,
https://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdfpubs/pdf09672813/pdf09672813dpi72.pdf

Boling, Josh, Fire, Wild About Utah, August 13, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/fire/

Strand, Holly, Investigating the Causes of Wildfires, Wild About Utah, Aug 15, 2013, https://wildaboututah.org/investigating-the-causes-of-wildfires/

Larese-Casanova, Mark, Wildfires in Utah, Wild About Utah, July 26, 2012, https://wildaboututah.org/wildfires-in-utah/

Preparing Home and Property for Wildlife, A Proactive Approach, Utah Living With Fire, Salt Lake City, UT, http://www.utahlivingwithfire.com/

Riparian Zones

Riparian Zones: Clear Creek in the Spring Courtesy & Copyright Holly Strand, Photographer
Clear Creek in the Spring
Courtesy & Copyright Holly Strand, Photographer
Summer’s heat has turned on. It was evident in a dramatic fashion as I ran a ridge in N. Utah where the early am temps were near 70 degrees, flowers had faded, and the absence of bird song. As I descended to the canyon bottom the temperature dropped a solid 20 degrees and bird voices returned where yellow warblers were competing with lazuli buntings for top songster. I had entered the riparian, or river side biotic community- from the burnt brown of cheat grass above to the lush “green zone” below supporting abundant life in our desert state. I won’t be running ridge tops any time soon!

Throughout the Intermountain West and Great Basin, these givers of life are critical areas for water, wildlife, agriculture, and recreation. About 80 % of all animal life is dependent on stream side habit sometime during its life cycle. As a birder and botanist, this is where I spend much of my time documenting and enjoying the abundance.
On a recent, brief bird survey along the Logan River golf course trail, I recorded 33 species with another ten or so known to nest in this river corridor. I’m planning to prepare a bird checklist for golfers to add more “birdies” to their score card.

Many of these special places have been seriously degraded through invasion of exotic species, agricultural practices, various forms of development, and channelization. But help is on the way.

The Logan River Task Force is one excellent example. Launched in 2016, the task force is well on its way to restoring a much healthier, biologically rich river system. Replacing crack willow, a Eurasian non-native tree, with native cottonwood and willow accompanied by a rich understory of shrubs, will significantly enhance the biodiversity along the floodplain. Another major change is underway as they replace the straight, channelized portion of the river to its meandering original channel. This will create more pools for fish, wetlands for flood control and filtering, while improving aesthetics and recreation opportunity.

In an earlier WAU reading, I mentioned the good work being done by western boxelder ranchers reintroducing beaver whose dams will assist with maintaining stream flow and water quality along with improved fish and wildlife habitat. I’m aware of the same occurring on a Mink Creek ranch in SE Idaho.

The world appears to be awakening to the many values of these critical wildlife and water quality riparian zones, as I awoke to the same on my early morning run.

This is Jack Greene and I’m Wild about Utah!!

Credits:

Images: Holly Strand
Text:     Jack Greene

Sources & Additional Reading:

Wheaton, Joe, Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, http://etalweb.joewheaton.org.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/Downloads/BRAT/UTAH_BRAT_Management%20Brief.pdf

Riparian Zones, What is a Riparian Zone?, Water Quality, USU Extension, https://extension.usu.edu/waterquality/learnaboutsurfacewater/watersheds/riversandstreams/riparianzones

The Bear River

The Bear River Basin Courtesy Utah Division of Water Rights bear.river_.basis_.waterrights.utah_.gov_.250x354.jpg
Bear River Basin
Courtesy Utah Division of Water Rights
bear.river_.basis_.waterrights.utah_.gov_.250×354.jpg
Following the same route which I had taken when coming up, we arrived at Bear River on the evening of the eleventh and encamped. Examination of Cache valley occupied several days. Crossing over the range of low rounded hills through, which Bear River has cut a passage, we entered this beautiful and picturesque valley. Which was then covered with a profusion of rich green grass and adorned and diversified by numerous clumps of willows. The valley is full of swampy springs affording an abundance of good sweet water and excellent grass. Speckled trout, large size, abound in the streams. I believe this passage to be from “Journal of a Trapper” written by mountain man Osborn Russell around 1816.

The Bear is a unique and beautiful rivering system. Superlatives abound. A river of profound beauty, who provides over 60% of the life blood for the Great Salt Lake eco system. The largest river, to begin and end in the Great Basin. A river which witnessed the largest massacre of Native Americans in our country’s history. A river of abundant life, who supports three national wildlife refuges, in its 500 mile course.

There were a few thoughts running through my brain as I canoed down a stretch of the Bear River though Gentile valley, in southeast Idaho this morning, counting bird species for Utah Power and Light. I was stunned by the beauty as we left the bank, into early morning sunrise, in a river mist with rain clouds forming over surrounding mountains. Our spirits were further buoyed by rampant bird songs, Canada Geese, Sandhill Cranes, Meadow Larks, Red Winged Blackbirds countless swallows and songbirds. Occasionally sun would find a hole in the clouds and awaken the hills to vibrant Spring green offset by dark clouds gathering.

Trumpeter Swan Courtesy US FWS/Mountain Prairie-flickr Katie Theule, Photographer
Trumpeter Swan
Courtesy US FWS/Mountain Prairie-flickr
Katie Theule, Photographer
A large white bird appears on the water ahead of us. Perhaps another pelican. Drifting closer we startled this elegant graceful being, which emits a loud trumpeting call to echo through the shrouds of fog. Trumpeter Swan. We are held in awe of this magnificence. Still on the endangered species list, due to overharvesting and habitat loss.

Winding our way through many river miles we finally arrived at the backwaters of Oneida Reservoir, as the river disappears in a rugged defile called the Narrows. Most of this once magnificent stretch of wildriver now lies beneath the reservoir

This is Jack Greene and I am Wild About Utah!

Credits:

Map: The Bear River Basin Courtesy Utah Division of Water Rights
Images:Courtesy US FWS/Mountain Prairie-flickr Katie Theule, Photographer
Text: Jack Greene
Transcribed from the audio supplied by UPR

Additional Reading:

Russell, Osborne, York, Lem A, Journal Of A Trapper Or Nine Years in the Rocky Mountains 1834-1843, Syms York, 1921, Digitized by Google, https://archive.org/details/journalatrapper00yorkgoog
https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=49HTAAAAMAAJ&pg=GBS.PA7

Russell, Osborne, Journal Of A Trapper: Nine Years in the Rocky Mountains 1834-1843, University of Nebraska Press, 1955, https://www.amazon.com/manuscript-Robertson-Collection-University-Mountains/dp/B000OFZEES/
Other versions
https://www.amazon.com/Journal-Trapper-Years-Mountains-1834-1843/dp/1541104935
https://www.amazon.com/Journal-Trapper-Years-Mountains-1834-1843-ebook/dp/B01MYMW9AQ

Morgan, Dale, Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West, Bison Books, 1964, https://www.amazon.com/Jedediah-Smith-Opening-West-Bison/dp/0803251386

Oneida Narrows Reservoir, Southwest Region, Idaho Birding Trail, Idaho Fish & Game, https://idfg.idaho.gov/ifwis/ibt/site.aspx?id=127

Trumpeter Swans, US FWS/Mountain Prairie-flickr account, Several Photographers https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmtnprairie/sets/72157659882083253

Build a Certified Wildlife Habitat at Home

Build Community Wildlife Habitats Ron Hellstern See also: http://www.nwf.org/Home/Garden-For-Wildlife.aspx
Build Community Wildlife Habitats
Ron Hellstern
See also:
http://www.nwf.org/Home/Garden-For-Wildlife.aspx
Most people appreciate viewing impressive forms of wildlife, such as Desert Bighorn Sheep in Zion, or Wolves and Grizzlies in Yellowstone, but they may not completely understand the quiet contributions that are being made to earth’s ecosystems every day by the small creatures around our own neighborhoods. These little ones help us in many unseen ways.

It is estimated that one third of the food that humans eat has been provided by small pollinators such as Hummingbirds, Butterflies, and Bees. Having these creatures in our own yards can produce hours of entertainment, and education, as we observe them working feverishly among our flowers, shrubs and trees.

Many citizens, and cities, are diligent in providing beautiful landscaped areas for these pollinators to gain nourishment as they work to increase the production of flowers and fruits.

A couple of quick tips as you decide to help these workaholic animals:
You can make your own hummingbird food by mixing one cup of sugar to four cups of water. Never put food coloring in hummingbird feeders. It can be harmful to them, and the red color of the feeder will automatically attract them. You should also use native, fertile plants in your landscaping design. And, unless you have a severe allergic reaction to bee stings, be assured that they are far more interested in gathering pollen than sacrificing their life to sting someone. Most people can work right alongside bees in their flower gardens. Wasps are another story.

So, as you design, or alter, your property to be more usable by pollinators and songbirds you can be rewarded by the National Wildlife Federation through their Wildlife Habitat Certification program. If you provide food, water, shelter and a place to raise young…you are eligible to have your yard certified. Remember, we’re not talking about Mountain Lions and Elk, just pollinators and songbirds. If you have a birdfeeder, birdbath, and shrubs or trees you qualify.

Nobody inspects your property. Go to their website at (www.nwf.org) and complete the simple application listed under Garden for Wildlife and, for a one-time fee of only $20, they will send you a personal certificate for your home, and a one year subscription to the National Wildlife magazine. They also have metal signs that you can post to show others that you care about wildlife. Once you see the value in this, encourage neighbors to do the same. In fact, you can have portions of your entire community certified as wildlife habitat as did Nibley City in Cache County. They were the first city in Utah to do so by certifying 100 properties, and they are ready to help others around the State to join them in this rewarding effort.

Next time you’re in the grocery store, or harvesting from your own garden, remember that a lot of that food would not exist without our diligent pollinators.

This is Ron Hellstern for Wild About Utah


Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Ron Hellstern
Text:     Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association


Additional Reading

Certify Your Wildlife Habitat, National Wildlife Federation, Accessed 20 July 2017, http://www.nwf.org/Home/Garden-For-Wildlife.aspx
Certify: http://www.nwf.org/Garden-For-Wildlife/Certify.aspx

Creating Landscapes for Wildlife… A Guide for Backyards in Utah, Written by Sue Nordstrom and Illustrated by Kathlyn Collins Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, Utah State University with Margy Halpin, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources; Second Printing 2001,
Updated for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, by Frank Howe, DWR Avian coordinator; Ben Franklin, DWR–Utah Natural Heritage Program botanist; Randy Brudnicki, DWR publications editor; and landscape planning illustrations by Stephanie Duer.,
Published by:
State of Utah Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources,
Utah State University Cooperative Extension Service and
Utah State University Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning;
1991 updated 2001 http://digitallibrary.utah.gov/awweb/awarchive?type=file&item=10215