What Glen Canyon once was, is slowly starting to come back. At Lake Powell’s high water mark, which hasn’t been under water in over 20 years, dozens of plants, insects and wildlife have been gradually settling back in.
“Because of continued demand for water, for Colorado River water, and climate change as well, we’ve had a two-decade-long shortage on the river system,” Eric Balken, director of the Glen Canyon institute explained. “These canyons that were once filled by the reservoir, they’re now out of water, and there’s a big question as to how those canyons are restoring.”
During the first half of the show, Nell and Chris learned about the Wasatch Wildlife Watch, a massive citizen science effort using camera traps to gather data about wildlife in the Wasatch Front and how they are impacted by humans. Dr. Mary Pendergast from Wild Utah Project, and Austin Green with the University of Utah joined Chris and Nell to share the details and how listeners can get involved as volunteers.
Outdoor recreation and wildlife cohabit in a big way along the Central Wasatch Mountains and the foothills that tumble into Utah’s largest urban area, yet scientists have only a vague idea of how animals respond to all the athletes, picnickers and hikers traipsing through their living room.
Now biologist Austin Green hopes to find firm answers using dozens of trap cameras. But his research has generated more information than he and his team can handle: 50,000 critter images recorded during a 105-day study period last spring and summer.
There has perhaps not been a more important time to hone our understanding of the current state of ecological health and function of the Wasatch Mountains and the wildlife that live here.
The Wasatch sustains 9 million visitors a year, which is about the same as that of the “mighty five” Utah national parks. Currently many planning processes and opportunities to shape the future of the central Wasatch are unfolding, ranging from the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area legislation, transportation solutions from the recent blue print of the Central Wasatch Mountain Accord, and other national forest planning opportunities.
Federal officials are proposing to substantially expand hunting in Utah’s Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge as part of a wider effort to boost hunter access to the nation’s wildlife preserves and other public lands.
Some conservation groups are skeptical of the plan, outlined in a draft environmental assessment released last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Although studies by various wildlife organizations have reported the greater sage grouse population has been in decline for the past 50 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in 2015 that the birds were warranted for protection under the U.S. Federal Endangered Species Act.