The West, in pictures

  • Sunrise with the Little Missouri River in the background. I crossed the river later that morning while on a backpacking trip through North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It’s interesting to note that today oil and gas development is booming all around the park. During the trip we only saw a scattering of [drilling] pads.

    Larry Rogero
  • Impoundments like this one dot the Powder River Basin of northeastern Wyoming. These small ponds hold water produced by coalbed methane extraction. This water, which must be pumped from deep aquifers in order to access gas, is often saline or otherwise unsuitable for agriculture and wildlife. Disposing of the water without contaminating shallow aquifers or disturbing stream flows and water quality is one of the biggest challenges involved in coalbed methane extraction. Building impoundments is a common strategy, though not without its problems.

    Ariel Patashnik
  • Though virtually extirpated in the contiguous States, caribou have flourished in Alaska. However, the Arctic is rapidly changing. Climate change and industrialization threaten caribou habitat and migratory patterns, which can involve circuits of nearly 2,000 miles. Here, two bulls swim across the Kobuk River. Their hollow hair, wide hooves and powerful legs make them very buoyant and strong swimmers.

    Kyle Joly
  • A severe dust storm in the San Gabriel Mountains, the frontier of development outside the metropolitan area of Los Angeles, California. The dust storm occurred after fires swept through the area.

    Austin Lord
  • The Kongakut River is one of the major rivers originating in Alaska's Brooks Range, coursing through the refuge and ending in the Beaufort Sea. This image was taken at Caribou Pass in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge while on a backpacking trip.

    Larry Rogero
  • Muskoxen were extirpated from Alaska in the 1800s, then reintroduced in the 1970s. In western Alaska, muskoxen populations have fared well, however, climate change may threaten this Arctic-adapted species. Icing events, which are predicted to increase, could "lock away" winter forage. Loss of sea ice has the potential to increase storm surges that kill muskoxen.

    Jim Lawler
  • Ice worms (Mesenchytraeus solifugus) are the only animals that occur exclusively on glaciers. Found from the Cascades to Alaska, these diminutive annelids are perfectly adapted to living on ice, but raise the temperature just a few degrees above freezing and these animals can literally melt away. Although ice worms have made their way in to Robert Service poems and NASA research papers, this one was making its way across the Portage Glacier in the Chugach National Forest in southcentral Alaska.

    Matthew Strausser
  • The collapsing remnants of the Humboldt Smelter, which processed ore from Arizona's numerous silver, copper, and gold mines until the 1960s. While once a major contributor to the local economy, it now sits as a bulls-eye within more than 300 acres of contaminated soils as part of a designated Superfund site that awaits cleanup.

    Leah Butler
  • San Antonio's limestone aquifer is porous and vulnerable to surface pollution, and it recharges just north of downtown in a rapidly developing area. As an advocate for greater protection of the aquifer, every week I spoke out at City Council hearings on new developments being built no regard to the natural resource buried beneath. One day I brought pictures. This photo is of an area once part of the Hill Country, a region of reserved beauty, rolling hills covered in live oak and ash juniper, and charismatic inhabitants such as armadillos, roadrunners, and golden-cheeked warblers. On a spring evening you are warmed by a southern breeze sweet with huisache blossom, while various croaks and chirps are a reminder of what else is there. It's a dry landscape that's developed over years of slow accumulation, sustained only by the limited quantities of water stored underground. Texas may be known for its oil, but water is its most precious resource.

    Elyzabeth Earnley
  • Lava Lake Ranch is a conservation organization based near Sun Valley, Idaho that sells grass fed lamb in an effort to fund conservation and restoration efforts on a nearly one million acre landscape. Every summer, Peruvian shepherds live in these sheep camps and guide bands of sheep along the green up through the mountains of central Idaho. The ranch raises many important environmental questions about the conflicts between sheep and conservation, how public lands should be used, and if a new model of conservation can sustainably fund itself. Can ancient business work in combination with modern technology and science to change western land management?

    Annie O’Sullivan
  • Overgrown Ponderosa Pine forests are referred to as dog-hair stands because the tree's close proximity to one another and dark color resemble the fur on a dogs back. The mountains around Flagstaff, Arizona, used to be covered with the tall and healthy forests of widespread old growth Ponderosa. Ironically, because of the work done to suppress forest fires as well as other factors like livestock grazing, forest health began to decline and the dog-hair pines grew increasingly thick. This modification of the ecology of the Colorado Plateau lead to large buildups of organic waste creating ideal conditions for severe forest fires. The Schultz fire -- pictured here -- burned 15,075 acres.

    Michael Finney
  • A helicopter battles a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park. Scientists believe climate change could increase the frequency of Yellowstone's fires over the next century, potentially turning many of its forests to grasslands.

    Benjamin Goldfarb
  • I extracted over 200 tree cores as part of my research project looking at fire-regulated forest stands in the first collaborative old-growth restoration project on the Colville National Forest. This study builds upon my previous work with the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, an alliance of timber companies, conservationists, business owners, and forestry professionals. It is estimated that only 3-15 percent of old growth Ponderosa pine east of the Cascade Crest remain.

    Tania Ellersick.
  • Increasing periods of drought in the American West have raised concern among those dependent on the land. A young rancher in Eastern Oregon awaits the building clouds with hope that they may bring a much-needed spring rain for the parched soils.

    Stephen Brooks
  • Canary Island St. John’s wort is a noxious weed in California, and a high priority eradication target by the Bay Area Early Detection Network (BAEDN). It is already highly invasive elsewhere, but California has just a few occurrences along the coast from San Diego to Marin. The Early Detection Network is collaborating with partners on eradication efforts. By far the largest infestation is on the San Mateo coast near Año Nuevo State Park, where a large stretch of high quality coastal scrub habitat has been invaded. Here, contractors from Go Native Inc. are treating Canary Island St. Johns wort along the San Mateo coastline.

    Mike Perlmutter/Shaun Dardenelle
  • Mike Jani, CEO of Humboldt Redwood Company, is photographed during the certification evaluation for the Forest Stewardship Council The forester in the center is John Woessner, who transferred from Mendocino Redwood Company to HRC. This shows the two foresters out with an activist, who used an increment borer to identify 'bastard' old growth trees so that HRC would not cut them down. The collaboration between activists and the logging company has helped the logging company avoid cutting down old growth trees.

    Kyle Meister
  • An old baby's doll emerges from the Tuba City Open Dump, an unlined and unregulated municipal disposal site on Hopi and Navajo lands. Groundwater beneath the site contains high levels of uranium that threatens the local drinking water supply. Tribal members, regulators, and operators struggle to locate the source of the contamination and ponder connections with the nearby uranium mill and the thousands of abandoned uranium mines scattered across the Navajo Nation.

    Leah Butler

SAGE Magazine, a student-run environmental magazine at the Yale Forestry School, recently ran a photo essay of Western images submitted from students and people around the region. Here, we showcase a selection of these photos, which include beautiful wildlife photography and poignant illustrations of humans' relationship to the natural world.

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