Semester in the West 2014

Follow our journey across the interior American West as we learn about public lands conservation and rural life in the face of climate change.

We are having technical difficulties with our satellite internet system, and will be away from the blog for the next three or four days while we fix the issue.  Sorry for the absence!

Our last sunset in Castle Valley. #photooftheday

An aspen mosaic

Robin & Steve Boies

Ranchers, Vineyard Ranch

Contact, NV

September 13, 2014

Owners of Vineyard Ranch near Contact, NV, Robin and Steve Boies have established an idyllic home on the ranch at which they have raised three children.  With 13,000 acres of private land connected with 107,000 acres of public land, the Boies’ work closely with the Bureau of Land Management and other organizations to collaborate on grazing practices and policies.  Steven and Robin believe in the importance of being good stewards of the earth, and they are active members of the Shoesole collaborative group, which is committed to developing and promoting sustainable methods of grazing.  In many ways they embody a new spirit of ranching in the American West.  When asked about the romanticism surrounding the life of a cowboy, Robin said that she “think[s] that there should be a new mythology about the west,” one that idealizes a cooperation where every stakeholder works together towards the implementation of land management practices that are sustainable for future generations.

By Emma Jones

Western Watersheds Project

Jackpot, NV

September 12, 2014

Western Watersheds Project (WWP) is an organization founded in 1993 dedicated to protecting the environment by eliminating livestock grazing on public lands. WWP recently selected Travis Bruner (upper right) to succeed Jon Marvel as Executive Director. We met with Travis, WWP’s President of the Board Kelley Weston (lower left), and board member Karen Klitz (upper left) and her brother Bill (lower right) just outside of Jackpot, Nevada. During a tour of several grazed sites along Trout Creek, the activists informed our group of the harms that cattle can inflict upon delicate sagebrush steppe landscapes. They cited examples from erosion to the browsing of native plants, suggesting that livestock are the single most destructive force present on federal lands today. A notable aspect of WWP’s advocacy is their willingness to use litigation as a tool toward their goal of removing livestock from public lands, which they see as more important than ever as climate change makes our public lands hotter and drier.

By Ellen Ivens-Duran

More photos from a beautiful day in the field!

Collecting data on mountain goats in the La Sal Mountains outside of Moab. A wonderful place for some field work! #photooftheday

A beautiful drive up the La Sal loop road with ecologist Mary O’Brien!

The shade of a cottonwood tree in Courthouse Wash north of Moab made a wonderful venue for reading our first epiphanies! #photooftheday

First dutch oven of the semester! Pineapple upside down cake for Andrew’s 20th birthday! #photooftheday

Our new camp outside of Moab!

Westies on salt flats at the border of Utah and Nevada! #photooftheday

Rancher Steve Boies visits with another group of Westies! #photooftheday

The first aerial shots from Semester in the West!

Check out the beautiful view of our campsite in Jackpot, NV! #photooftheday

Dinner near Jackpot, NV! #photooftheday