Reporter John Fleck wrote an unusual obituary in the Albuquerque Journal in September – on the death of a 650-year old Douglas-fir.
Known as “Yoda,” the tree was an icon for climate scientists. Growing out of a lava flow at El Malpais National Monument and measuring barely 7 feet high, Yoda was tiny for a Douglas-fir—which can grow 150 feet tall in moist southwestern canyons. But despite its diminutive size, an annual growth ring count showed that the tree had been alive since at least 1406.
Arid grasslands once covered significant parts of the Southwestern states — as much as 24 million acres in Arizona, for example. American pronghorn were widespread in these open spaces, along with many other grassland-dependent wildlife species.
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.”
One of the enduring mysteries of the Colorado Plateau is why the area’s ancient Puebloan population dropped to almost zero in the late 13th century, after peaking at as many as 40,000 people just 30 years earlier.
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.