In 1986, after a statewide vote by thousands of school children, the Arizona Tree Frog became Arizona’s official state amphibian. Beating out better-known rivals like the spadefoot toad by a wide margin, this small and seldom-seen frog might seem an unlikely candidate for top spot. But it makes sense when you realize how much they love to climb.
Rarely more than two inches long, with smooth green skin and a dark stripe running from eye to rear, these amphibians live mostly above 5,000 feet in the forests of central-northern Arizona, close to streams and wet meadows.
For over three decades, a gleaming grid of 400 stainless steel poles has drawn art-world visitors to a place more accustomed to pronghorn and occasional wandering cattle—the high, lonesome desert of western New Mexico’s Catron County.
Commissioned by the Dia Art Foundation of New York, the Lightning Field is the creation of sculptor Walter de Maria, who in the 1970s designed this Earth Art sculpture as an homage to place—and to people’s relationship to it.
Each year barn swallows dart and swoop in summer skies to catch insects. But these flashy blue and orange aerialists aren’t on the hunt for only food. As is true with our own species, barn swallows use athletics and appearance to show off to the opposite sex.
With their distinctive forked tails, barn swallows are widespread. On multiple continents they build mud cup nests under bridges and in barns and other human structures. But their choice of mates varies from place to place.
Sitting high and mainly dry, residents of the Colorado Plateau don’t have to worry about rising sea levels as the Earth’s climate warms. But in recent years parts of the plateau have experienced record warming and low moisture, damaging winter storms, and severe wildfires and flooding.
Whether these are short-term weather events, or signs of a longer-term change in climate, remains to be seen. But some in the region are already adapting to what they fear could be even greater impacts caused by an altered climate.
How do you start a garden? That’s a lesson students at the West Sedona Elementary School have recently learned. And they learned it so well that they received a 2011 Youth Garden Award from the National Gardening Association.
For many residents of the mountain west, warmer temperatures may not sound too bad.
But small differences in temperature can make a big difference.
Consider bark beetles. They’re native to the region’s conifer forests. Normally, the insects emerge in summer. Females bore into the cambium layer of trees and sever vessels that contain resin, releasing a sticky flow that “pitches out” the beetles. But in weaker trees that lack sufficient resin swarms of beetles can quickly chew enough wood tunnels to kill their hosts.
For centuries, New Mexico’s Pueblo peoples have relied on the plants and animals of the Río Grande to sustain their lifestyles and traditions. But in recent times the river has been impacted by development, diversion, and flood control. That can make it difficult to maintain some key cultural practices. What is the purpose of a deer dance, for example, if there are no deer?
Not content to sit idly by, three pueblos near Española, in northern New Mexico, have formed an unprecedented alliance to mitigate damage along a dozen miles of river corridor.
As the weather gets warm, it’s an inviting time to get out and observe wildlife. In other seasons too there are creatures to see and hear—ducks nesting on summer lakes, elk bugling in the fall, and bald eagles overwintering.
They’re sometimes called fish eagles, for good reason: their diet is almost all live fish. They’re big raptors, hard to miss soaring above the scattered rivers and lakes of the Southwest’s high country. They’re ospreys, birds that belong to the summer skies of the Colorado Plateau.
Flagstaff’s Southside Murdoch Community Center is about to get solar panels installed on its roof. That’s not innovative—but the way the panels are being paid for is. Thanks to 87 small-scale investors and a company named Solar Mosaic, the center will enjoy long-term energy savings without big upfront costs.
Solar Mosaic focuses on financing clean energy projects with help from what it calls the “power of the crowd.” So far the company has funded five solar projects in California and Arizona.