Earth Notes

The Colorado Plateau is one of North America’s human and environmental treasures. Ancient cultures have called this land of sun-baked deserts and lush mountain landscapes home for centuries. Earth Notes, KNAU’s weekly environmental series, explores the Plateau by telling stories of the intricate relationships between environmental issues and our daily lives.

Rooted in science and wrapped in human interest, the two minute long segments encourage listeners to think of themselves as part of the solution to environmental problems. Upbeat and informative, the program tries to foster hope and dampen despair about the environment, and motivate listeners to become more conscious and informed stewards of the Colorado Plateau.

Utah State Parks

  Many visitors discover Goblin Valley by chance on their way between marquee national parks like Capitol Reef and Canyonlands. But this Utah state park received unwanted publicity in 2013 when two men were caught on video toppling rocks off the weirdly rounded hoodoos that give the park its name.

That act of vandalism spurred a big idea: why not expand the park? Goblin Valley currently consists of about 3,500 acres of outlandish geology. But that may soon grow to about 10,000 acres under a State Parks plan.

  No one is neutral about snow. Depending on whether we’re planning to play in it or drive in it, go shopping or skip school, we hope either that it’ll fall or that it won’t.

The higher elevations of the Colorado Plateau can get lots of snow, with more than 200 inches recorded in a single winter at many mountain locations.

Major winter storms can pose big problems for animals such as deer, elk, and pronghorn, which can be trapped by heavy snowfalls and driven to starvation. But for smaller animals snow can be a blessing.

Earth Notes: Climb On!

Jan 14, 2015
National Park Service

  “The most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth” is how author Edward Abbey described the colorful wilderness of gorges, mesas, and buttes that is Canyonlands National Park, one of the last relatively undisturbed parts of the Colorado Plateau. That landscape also represents a special place of emotional healing and rejuvenation for returned combat veteran Michael Cummings. Haunted by traumatic memories after two tours of duty in Iraq, Cummings was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, survivor’s guilt, alcohol abuse and thoughts of suicide.

National Park Service

  When chill winter winds buffet the juniper trees and sigh among the boughs of the piñon pines, the merry song of the Townsend’s solitaire rings out as cheerfully as any spring lark’s. Is the Townsend’s solitaire simply a jolly fool, drunk with Yuletide cheer, or perhaps befuddled by the way climate change is threatening western forests?

California Academy of Sciences

  In the late nineteenth century, it would have been a brave undertaking for a woman to tromp around the wilds of the Colorado Plateau. But that is what Alice Eastwood did, in long skirt and fine flowered hat, following her passion for plants.

Born in Canada in 1859, Eastwood grew up in Denver and was a high school teacher there for a time. Armed with field guides and a plant press, she spent vacations exploring all over the West. An energetic woman, she traveled by foot, horse, and rail, and eventually won welcome to an all-male hiking club.

The historical photo collection at Northern Arizona University’s Cline Library will be a key tool in answering a very modern question over the coming months. Dating back to the late 1800s, the images will be used like a visual time machine to reveal the effects of changing climate – and land management – on northern Arizona’s plant communities.

Principal investigator Professor Tom Whitham says that comparing historical and contemporary photos will allow us to literally see how vegetation has changed over time.

National Park Service

  They’re an animal many gardeners love to hate, though they’re rarely seen. Ribbons of dirt strung across the ground, and sometimes disappearing plants, are the only sign most people will see of pocket gophers, rodents that themselves are very active gardeners.

The dirt trails are created as these small animals excavate underground tunnels where they live, store food, and bear young.

Verde Valley Archaeology Center.

 Archaeologists have long appreciated that the Southwest’s dry climate is ideal for preserving perishable goods left by past people. Cloth, basketry, wood, or plant and animal materials that have survived for nearly a thousand years are rare, exciting finds.

Such a discovery was made on a ranch near Montezuma Castle in central Arizona, and the entire collection was recently donated to the Verde Valley Archaeology Center in Camp Verde.

Bureau of Land Management

Electricity-generating wind turbines are a common sight these days. Yet their popularity is limited by the fact that the wind stops blowing from time to time, even on the breezy western plains. But a planned wind farm, and a set of caves, in the interior West may represent a creative solution to this problem.

The Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy project is the name for a proposed utility-scale facility that would provide Southern California with over two gigawatts of green power. That’s double the amount produced by Hoover Dam, and enough to serve over a million homes.

What yelps, purrs, cackles putts, kee-kees, and gobbles? Yes, your teenagers might do all of these things, but we’re talking turkey. Turkeys yelp to call their children, while lost youngsters kee-kee piteously. Like cats, turkeys purr when they’re content. In early spring toms gobble and strut to attract hens.

After mating, the hen scratches a nest under a big pine or in a brush pile, laying one speckled egg a day until she has a clutch of ten to twelve. She’ll incubate them alone for nearly a month. Chicks are out of the nest and following mom within 24 hours of hatching.