NRCS Oregon Hydrologist Julie Koeberle helps Soil Scientist Thor Thorson calculate current water content in snow. NRCS photo.
Every winter Westerners look to the mountains and may not realize they’re peering into the future. More snow cap means more water come spring and summer. Many lives and livelihoods depend on nature’s uneven hand.
Thanks to USDA’s National Water and Climate Center, what used to be speculation is now science. Through a network of high-elevation weather stations across the West, the center accurately forecasts how much water Western states will receive from snowmelt.
The data benefits everyone in the path of the streamflow. The center’s water supply forecasts empower states to take action to prevent flooding or prepare for drought. Some farmers look to the water supply forecast when deciding what crops to grow. It’s like playing chess with nature, and you can almost see nature’s next move. Read more »
Youth who were part of the filming of “Untrammeled” marvel at the stars appearing overhead, as twilight descends on camp in the Scapegoat Wilderness. (U.S. Forest Service)
While my days of adventuring into the back country are by no means over, it is becoming increasingly apparent that my generation is approaching the inevitable time when we must pass the torch on to the next generation of wilderness and natural resource stewards.
On my recent trip to Missoula, Montana, I was privileged and extremely pleased to see a group of young people who will help carry that torch. My heart is more at peace about our future after my experience viewing the U.S. Forest Service movie “Untrammeled” at the University of Montana. Read more »
Snowmelt on Mount Hood sends ample water down a stream in Oregon. NRCS photo.
April storms delivered a mix of rain and snow to the northern half of the West but didn’t provide much relief for the dry southern half, according to the latest USDA water supply forecast.
Washington, most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the northern parts of Colorado and Utah, are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecasts from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC). Streamflows that are far below normal are forecast for the southern parts of Oregon and Utah, southwestern Idaho, California, Arizona, New Mexico and western Nevada. Read more »
NRCS and other partners are working to restore the wetlands located at the headwaters of O’Dell Creek in Montana. NRCS photo.
The headwaters of O’Dell Creek in Madison Valley, Mont. serve as a perfect example of the benefits of implementing good conservation practices. Considered one of the largest wetland areas in Montana, O’Dell Creek was drained in the 1950s for land to raise livestock. But now, ranchers, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other partners are restoring the wetland.
Historically grazed all year, the O’Dell Creek and Madison River floodplain provided abundant forage, flowing water and refuge from harsh weather. Over the years, the draining and livestock uses took a toll.
“I could see the degradation,” said Jeff Laszlo, one of the owners of Granger Ranches LP — where the creek is located. “There was a decline in both the grass production of our river bottoms and the overall health of our riparian area. Although I really didn’t know what to do about it, I felt that there had to be a better way of managing and taking care of one of the ranch’s most important assets.” Read more »
Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm. (NRCS photo)
March storms increased snowpack in the northern half of the West but didn’t provide much relief for the dry southern half, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC) in its April 2014 water supply forecast.
According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and northern parts of Colorado and Utah are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecast. Far below normal streamflow is expected for southern Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah and western Nevada. Read more »
Cedar sculpin (Cottus schitsuumsh). (Emily Harrington/E.H. Illustration)
U.S. Forest Service scientists at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Mont., have identified a new species of fish—the cedar sculpin (Cottus schitsuumsh). Although thousands of new species are described by scientists each year, only a small percentage of them are animal species, and even fewer are found in the United States, underscoring the importance of this discovery.
Freshwater sculpins, with their characteristic large heads and fins, are bottom dwellers that can be found in cold, fast-moving streams throughout North America. Biologists have long suspected that there were undescribed species of sculpins in the Upper Columbia River Basin, but lacked the tools to recognize them. Cedar sculpin populations were previously thought to be shorthead sculpin (Cottus confusus), an understandable misidentification given that sculpins are notoriously difficult to identify based on their physical features. Read more »