Environment: Feds tackle sage-steppe restoration


The BLM is eying sagebrush restoration work.

Great Basin projects to bolster sage-grouse habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal land managers want to stem the loss of sagebrush habitat with a $4 million series of projects across the Great Basin.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said the Bureau of Land Management projects will  reduce the threat of  more frequent and intense wildfires that are damaging sagebrush landscapes and productive rangelands. Continue reading

Environment: Cows versus greater sage-grouse?


Greater sage-grouse need tall grass for nesting. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Study shows livestock grazing a key factor in greater sage-grouse decline

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new study by sage grouse scientists confirms that the height of grass cover in nesting habitat is a key factor in determining greater sage grouse nest success.

The findings suggest that better grazing management is needed to protect the threatened birds. Cattle eat native vegetation that sage grouse require for hiding their nests from predators. Continue reading

Environment: Post-fire rehab treatments in Great Basin not doing much good for sage-grouse

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Greater sage-grouse. Photo courtesy USFWS.

More targeted treatments could benefit threatened birds

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Post-fire rehabilitation work in the Great Basin’s sagebrush ocean isn’t doing much to help greater sage-grouse, USGS and U.S. Forest Service scientists found in a new study.

The research team took a close look at areas eight to 20 years after seeding efforts, pointing out that such restoration projects could, in theory, be used to improve sage grouse habitat — but only if the right types of seeds are planted.

Sage-grouse tend to use areas with a mixture of dwarf sagebrush and Wyoming big sagebrush, native grasses, minimal human development, and minimal non-native plants. Most post-fire restoration projects are were designed to mitigate the effects of fire on soil and vegetation — but they provide an opportunity to reverse habitat degradation for sage-grouse, a species being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Continue reading

Rare Great Basin plant to get some protection

Webber's ivesia, a rare desert flower in the rose family, will get some protection under the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy Sarah Kulpa, USFW.

Webber’s ivesia, a rare desert flower in the rose family, will get some protection under the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy Sarah Kulpa, USFW.

Critical habitat designation will help bolster populations of Webber’s ivesia

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A rare Great Basin flower will get some protection under the Endangered Species Act, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed 2,011 acres of critical habitat for Webber’s ivesia.

The plant, a member of the rose family, grows only in localized patches of rocky, clay-based soils that are wet in spring and that shrink and swell with drying and wetting. The soil can take thousands of years to form and is associated with  sparse vegetation associated with low sagebrush.

The five counties where the rare flower is found are in the transition zone between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Great Basin Desert. Continue reading

Colorado: Chilly January, but few records broken


Several Colorado weather stations reported record-low daytime high temps in January.

Salt Lake City suffers through weeks of air quality problems

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — When the weather history of January is written, it might be all about the persistent cold air pools that lingered in many western valleys, setting the stage for record-low temperatures, something that’s been quite uncommon in recent years.

In Summit County, only one temperature record was broken during the month, a record minimum high of 7 degrees on Jan. 16 at the Dillon weather station. The previous record-old high temperature for the day was 9 degrees, set not all that long ago, in 2007.

No record highs were set in Summit County, but nearby, Climax broke its all-time record high for January 27, hitting 44 degrees. The previous record of 42 degrees was set back in 1927. A few spots nearby, notably Williams Fork Dam, set both daily record high and low readings. Continue reading

Cheatgrass implicated in Great Basin fire regime


Satellite images help pinpoint land-cover and fire patterns

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with global warming, new research suggests that invasive cheatgrass is a significant factor in the proliferation of more intense fires in the intermountain West, and specifically in the Great Basin.

“Although this result has been suspected by managers for decades, this study is the first to document recent cheatgrass-driven fire regimes at a regional scale, the scientists wrote, describing the study that relied partly on satellite images captured between 2000 and 2009 to create a detailed land-cover map of the Great Basin. Continue reading

Climate: New clues for ancient Great Basin lakes

Nevada’s Walker Lake is a remnant of one of the great inland lakes that covered parts of the Great Basin during the last glacial cooling period. Image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Glacial climate regime may have enhanced Southwest Monsoon

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Geologists and paleoclimatologists have long known that the great basins of the intermountain West were once filled with water, forming vast inland seas. At the peak of the last glacial cooling period, about 14,000 to 20,000 years ago as much as a quarter of Nevada and Utah were covered with water.

What’s not exactly clear is where and when the water came from, but a new study led by a Texas A&M researcher offers additional clues, suggesting that the additional moisture came from a powerful, enhanced summer monsoon.

First, the scientists set out to test the prevailing hypothesis that the water resulted from a shift in the winter storm track that now generally carries storm to the north of the Great Basin, into northern California, Washington and Oregon. Continue reading


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