Rose Houk

Land Lines

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.

As the weather gets warm, it’s an inviting time to get out and observe wildlife. In other seasons too there are creatures to see and hear—ducks nesting on summer lakes, elk bugling in the fall, and bald eagles overwintering.

Michael Collier

The cool pine-scented air of the Kaibab Plateau at 8,000 feet is a respite on a hot day. You might want to stop at Jacob Lake Lodge for one of the best chocolate milkshakes this side of Grand Canyon. Stretch your legs, take a last slurp of that ‘shake, then pedal on down the hill on Highway 89A.

The road’s fairly level at first, but heading east it plunges downhill past yellow-belly ponderosas, through pinyon and juniper, toward sagebrush below, dropping three thousand feet in a hurry. The reason for this impressive hill--the East Kaibab Monocline.

Earth Notes: Osprey

May 16, 2012

They’re sometimes called fish eagles, for good reason: their diet is almost all live fish. They’re big raptors, hard to miss soaring above the scattered rivers and lakes of the Southwest’s high country. They’re ospreys, birds that belong to the summer skies of the Colorado Plateau.

Michael Collier

At Navajo National Monument up in northeast Arizona, soaring rock alcoves provided shelter for Pueblo people in the thirteenth century. Many alcoves also hold springs, lush with plants. Today on Land Lines, we visit a well-known site, Betatakin--set like a jewel in one of those alcoves. 

"The name for this place is Talastima, place of flowers, or corn tasseling.  This is where we came from," says Lloyd Masayumptewa, a Hopi and a park archeologist.

Trees grace our sidewalks, house birds, feed squirrels, and furnish wood for everything from campfires to fences. And the oxygen plants emit allows us to live on Earth in the first place. But now tree huggers have a new way to assess the benefits our leafy companions provide.

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