Today, the West’s amber waves of grass are more often than not a species land managers cringe to see. Cheatgrass, a Eurasian species that most likely arrived on ships a century ago, now runs across millions of acres of the Intermountain West and Colorado Plateau.
The managers of nature-oriented parks, including many on the Colorado Plateau, don’t always know how many visitors to expect, or when peak visiting times will come. But, technology may be changing that. It turns out that vacation photos posted by tourists on the Internet may be able to improve managers’ understanding of how people use and enjoy parks.
Herbert Ernest Gregory isn’t exactly a household name among Colorado Plateau residents. But, for more than 40 years, Gregory spent several months each summer exploring and explaining the plateau’s geologic wonderland. About all that commemorates him here now is his weathered canteen hanging in the visitor center at Zion National Park.
Some 27 national parks and monuments protect the Colorado Plateau’s remarkable canyons, rivers, and wide-open spaces. But, people increasingly visit the plateau to experience another rare natural resource: its dark skies.
Arizona claims a unique population of desert-nesting bald eagles. Those eagles often build their big bulky nests near water, including lakes and rivers in the northern part of the state. The birds use about anything they can find in nest construction—including used fishing line.
No city park or town plaza is complete without the presence of ubiquitous house sparrows — birds so resourceful and adaptable that they can be found even at remote ranches with just a couple of trees. House sparrows are the little brown birds, often with black bibs, that hop around on the ground, cadging bugs, leftover French fries and sandwich crumbs.