Rose Houk

Land Lines
National Park Service

As winter approaches, some species of bats settle in to hibernate in caves. Lack of food and dropping temperatures drive them inside, where “carpets” of bats congregate on cave ceilings.

Michael Collier


The world’s largest ponderosa pine forest stretches across higher elevations from the San Francisco Peaks to the Arizona/New Mexico border. But in the last century, human intervention has threatened its health.

Ron Nichols, / U.S. Department of Agriculture

Early on fall mornings, a piercing screech echoes across meadows in northern Arizona. It’s the frenzied bugle of a big bull elk in rut, trying to lure a harem of cows to breed and continue his line.

John Anderson / Hedgerow Farms

If you’re out searching for one of North America’s most famed butterflies, the beautiful orange and black monarch butterfly, try looking in a patch of milkweed.

Michael Collier

If you stand at the brink of Toroweap Overlook and toss a penny into the Grand Canyon, the falling coin would hit the Colorado River two minutes later.

Reusing old clothes isn’t a new habit. Americans have long donated out-of-fashion or too-small clothing to charities or resale boutiques. Creative quilters, weavers, and seamstresses cut up old dresses and restitch them into something new. Some creative, eco-conscious artists even remodel threadbare garb into couture garments and bags.

But it’s estimated that much of the nearly twelve million tons of clothing, shoes, and textiles that Americans discard each year does end up in landfills.

Michael Collier

Look at this–a crinoid stem. How can this be? A sea-floor fossil perched at 9000 feet in a volcanic field that stretches for miles in every direction?

Just north of Flagstaff, Mount Humphreys stands 12,633 feet above sea level, the highest summit in Arizona. Humphreys and the rest of the San Francisco Peaks are old volcanoes. Surrounding them is a necklace of dome-shaped mountains—Sugarloaf, O’Leary, Kendrick, the Dry Lake Hills, and Elden Mountain. They’re volcanic too, but they formed in a different way.

Michael Collier

When geologists see a straight line running across a landscape, they get suspicious.  Straight lines don’t happen by accident; they usually mean something.  Such a line, about 155 miles long, leads north out of Grand Canyon country into Utah. It’s called the Hurricane Fault.  Nineteenth-century geologist Clarence Dutton declared this one of the Earth’s most interesting “dislocations.”

Sitting high and mainly dry, residents of the Colorado Plateau don’t have to worry about rising sea levels as the Earth’s climate warms. But in recent years parts of the plateau have experienced record warming and low moisture, damaging winter storms, and severe wildfires and flooding.

Whether these are short-term weather events, or signs of a longer-term change in climate, remains to be seen. But some in the region are already adapting to what they fear could be even greater impacts caused by an altered climate.

USDA Forest Service

For many residents of the mountain west, warmer temperatures may not sound too bad.

But small differences in temperature can make a big difference.

Consider bark beetles. They’re native to the region’s conifer forests. Normally, the insects emerge in summer. Females bore into the cambium layer of trees and sever vessels that contain resin, releasing a sticky flow that “pitches out” the beetles. But in weaker trees that lack sufficient resin swarms of beetles can quickly chew enough wood tunnels to kill their hosts.