Colorado Plateau

In the global carbon economy, forests act like leafy savings accounts. They take carbon dioxide from the air during photosynthesis, convert it into biomass, and deposit it for years or even centuries in wood and soil.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing two Western minnows in the West as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The agency says human activity has caused the numbers of two chub species to dwindle. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports. 

Earth Notes: The Four Corners’ Methane Problem

Sep 30, 2015

The San Juan River Basin has a rich human history, visible in places like the ancient pueblo ruins of Chaco Canyon. But it is different relict of a much older history, rooted late in the Age of Dinosaurs, that is drawing attention to the basin these days: methane gas. 

The Baca Ranch was long a landmark of northern New Mexico—a swath of high-elevation forests and open parks that sprawled across 89,000 acres. But for a long time, too, it was a landmark that was hard to get a look at because it was closed to most public access.

Earth Notes: The Southwest’s Armored Anteater

Aug 26, 2015

With spikes rimming its head and spines flanking its body, the horned lizard of the West could be a fearsome sight, a sort of modern-day dinosaur. That is, if it were any larger than a human hand. 

We tend to think that rivers flow in a consistent direction: downstream. But over geologic time “downstream” can change. That’s why a place like Unaweep Canyon in western Colorado is such a good place to think about long-term time travel.

Melissa Sevigny

The City of Williams west of Flagstaff is in the process of drilling a new well. Like many places in the Southwest, it’s facing drought and rising demand. But there’s another reason water supply is a challenge in Williams.  A fluke of geology has forced the city to take the lead in the hunt for groundwater on the Colorado Plateau.    

Earth Notes: Returning Grass to the Grasslands

Jun 17, 2015

The back of its wings glinting rust-red in the sun, a ferruginous hawk scans the grasslands below for ground squirrels and jackrabbits, two choice meals. These hawks rely on broad vistas to catch prey. But shrubs and juniper trees have steadily invaded many of their hunting grounds in the Southwest.

Earth Notes: Utah’s Bison

May 13, 2015

Above Moab’s Mill Canyon, a sandstone cliff holds an art gallery. Its images range from petroglyphs left by the ancient Fremont people to cowboy inscriptions. One stands out—a bull bison, complete with hump and horns. Nearby, painted Ute warriors carry shields, a form of body armor crafted from the animal’s skin.

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.”