Flagstaff, AZ – Aspens are among the West's signature trees. Their heart-shaped leaves rustle in the slightest breeze, filling the forest with a gentle shhhushing sound. In autumn, those leaves form a golden contrast with the dark green of high-elevation conifers.
Aspen groves are resilient. They send up new trees when they're singed by fire, withered by drought, or attacked by insects. But lately, something's changing. Biologists began to notice in 2004 that aspen groves all over the west were dying at unprecedented rates.
Flagstaff, AZ – A venerable timberline tree of the Colorado Plateau holds secrets to a long history of environmental change. Bristlecone pines cling to the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks and other high places. And the harsher the conditions, the longer these elegantly sculpted trees live.
Have you noticed the world getting noisier? Even in wild places the sound of silence is becoming scarce.
People who record natural environments for a living lament the intrusion of noise from airplanes, gunfire, all-terrain vehicles, and distant highway traffic. The result, says recordist Gordon Hempton, is that "quiet is going extinct."
They're the American West's most enduring symbols of open lonely spaces and of the pioneer urge to wander restlessly and, like many such symbols, they're fairly new here. In fall and winter the dried-up, skeletal remains of tumbleweeds can be spotted rolling across highways and piling up along fencelines throughout the West's arid regions, reminding residents and visitors alike of the iconic images that have appeared in countless movies.
Some of the Colorado Plateau's longest-established farmers, members of the Hopi and Pueblo tribes, have been cultivating food here for millennia. But they're worrying for their crops, especially their corn, in the face of a very recent threat: genetically modified organisms.
Dams like those on western rivers may be generating more than just hydropower. It turns out that large dams can do more than just store water and spin electric turbines. New research suggests they can, in some cases, increase local rain, perhaps even triggering extreme precipitation events.
What's done with used glass depends in part on where you live. Flagstaff's eight glass drop-off sites collect about 70 tons of mixed glass each month. But there's no glass manufacturing plant in the area. Instead, the glass is crushed into tiny pieces at a recycling center.
Flagstaff, AZ – Born in England in 1837 and raised in Pennsylvania, Moran first came out west in 1871, with the Hayden (HAY-DUN) Survey in Yellowstone. His paintings were the first images most people had ever seen of that region, so powerful that Congress declared Yellowstone the world's first national park a year later.
The legislature then purchased Moran's monumental painting "Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone," a full 7 feet by 12 feet in size, to hang in the Capitol.
Flagstaff, AZ – It's summer vacation - a perfect time to take children out in the woods. Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods," says our culture's rejection of nature is harming kids in mind, body and spirit.
Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: Pasture Restoration Project
A thousand years ago, Sinagua farmers channeled water from Montezuma Well onto their fields of corn, beans, and squash. Nineteenth-century Anglo farmers enlarged the fields, improved the irrigation ditches, and tapped into the same spring. In 1943, the Well became part of Montezuma Castle National Monument. Yet cattle grazed the land around the Well into the 1990s.