The Colorado pinyon pine, the tree that covers millions of acres of the Colorado Plateau, bears hard-shelled, wingless seeds in stubby cones. And people in the Southwest have harvested and eaten those delicious nuts for thousands of years.
But the pines produce nuts only every five to seven years. When there was a good crop in the fall, whole families trekked to the woodlands to gather the protein- and calorie-rich nuts, which nourished them through the winter.
The American beaver is an appealing animal, with dexterous paws, curious eyes and paddle-shaped tail. But, these rodents, the largest in North America, were nearly wiped out by the early 1900s as trappers sent mass quantities of the thick brown pelts back East for stylish top hats.
On Sept. 3, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the National Wilderness Preservation System Act. With the stroke of a pen, 9 million acres of federal land in the United States was designated as wilderness — with a capital “W.”
On the Colorado Plateau, life begins anew when the monsoon rains come — especially for native amphibians like the northern leopard frog. This beautiful, spotted, greenish-brown frog pays close attention to moisture, and starts to move on humid days and rainy nights.
Today, the West’s amber waves of grass are more often than not a species land managers cringe to see. Cheatgrass, a Eurasian species that most likely arrived on ships a century ago, now runs across millions of acres of the Intermountain West and Colorado Plateau.