Four people with backpacks and helmets stand in a forest with a view of a lake behind them.

Restoring Connection to the Land

Indigenous trail crews empower the next generation of environmental stewards

By Cecilia Curiel

For the last several years, Shonto Greyeyes of the Diné (Navajo) Nation has made his living in some of the Southwest’s most sought-after landscapes—

Horses, Hats, and Heritage

Horses, Hats, and Heritage

Dude ranching offers a compelling model for sustainable tourism in the West

By Graham Marema

Just before sunrise, Nine Quarter Circle Ranch wakes up. The valley is still blue with fog, and wranglers don cowboy hats and vests, shimmying their feet into worn boots.

Illustration of pronghorn running alongside a bullet train.

Train Trek

A vision for bringing passenger rail back to the rural West

Words by Nick Robinson, artwork by Graham Marema

Steel wheels glide along a track as the conductor announces, “Next stop, Thermopolis!” Outside the window, pronghorn antelope gallop across the sagebrush. The train slows to match their speed and then enters a tunnel. On the other side, striking granite walls of the Wind River Canyon come into view.

Photo of two elk silhouetted against a sunset.

Elk Heyday

Booming elk numbers create a rare opportunity for hunting and tourism

By Janey Fugate

While scouting for mule deer on a chilly October evening in southeast Wyoming, the last thing I expected to see was several hundred elk.

Photo of a red fox sitting on a paved sidewalk near a sprinkler in a campground.

The Outdoor Recreation Ecosystem

How accounting for human behavior can improve wildlife management

By Molly Caldwell

On a summer evening in a Grand Teton National Park campground, the smell of barbecue drifts along a cooling breeze, signaling dinner time to nearby red foxes.

A rock climber ascends a sport route in Tensleep Canyon, Wyoming.

Ascending to the Challenge

Rock climbers in a remote Wyoming canyon may help shape national public lands climbing management

By Nita Tallent

On an early summer day in 2018, a group of sport rock climbers—packs laden with ropes, quickdraws, harnesses, shoes, and chalk—clambered up a makeshift trail in Tensleep Canyon, Wyoming.

Photo of students standing in a lake with their arms around one another.

Reimagining “Leave No Trace”

Can outdoor recreators minimize impact in the backcountry while connecting deeply with place?

By Sam Sharp

It’d been raining all day when we heard them: bullfrogs, croaking from the woods. We stopped, dropped our packs, and marched through the leaf litter to find them.

Red and orange blanket flowers blooming through a tarp.

Wings Over Wyoming

Cultivating pollinator support at state parks

By Amy Marie Storey

In 2019, a plain mowed field in Oklahoma’s Sequoyah State Park transformed into an acre of wildflowers. The verdant space served both visitors and pollinators.

White dog and man walking on a trail.

Untethered

Managing off-leash dogs on public trails

By Sabrina White

“Boulder, as a town, has always been super supportive of dogs and people recreating together off-leash,” says Lisa Gonҫalo, recreation management coordinator for the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks.

Family hiking through wildflowers with trees behind.

Making Space

Land trusts take on community access to outdoor recreation

By Meghan Kent

In 2009, Colin Betzler moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, as the first paid executive director for the local land trust. Like for many people, the Bighorn Mountains drew him to the area. On a clear day, the fortress-like summits of Cloud Peak, Blacktooth, Innominate, and Mt. Woolsey reign over the Sheridan valley.

Sagebrush in Prisons

Sagebrush in Prisons

Inmates are saving an iconic American landscape—and themselves

By Frani Halperin

On a very windy fall day, Gina Clingerman, project manager for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Abandoned Mines Lands program in Wyoming, walks through rolling hills where a wildland fire torched more than 14,000 acres of sagebrush steppe in 2020.

Cheatgrass in the American West.

Editor’s Note

Tens of thousands of invasive species—from cheatgrass, blights, and tamarisk to hogs, fire ants, and boa constrictors—damage natural ecosystems, agricultural systems, human-built infrastructure, and even public health throughout the United States, costing billions of dollars each year.

Weeds illustration

Nonnatives, Invasives, Weeds

Plants as stories of human meddling

The Wyoming census for the plant kingdom is out! Over 2,900 different kinds of vascular plants grow in the wild in Wyoming according to experts at UW’s Rocky Mountain Herbarium. They include more than 2,500 native species along with 372 nonnative ones as of 2018.

Cheatgrass field

Cheatgrass on Fire

The race to save an ecosystem

Locals speculate that Nevada’s largest fire may have started with a Fourth of July firework launched in a canyon. But no one really knows. The 2018 Martin Fire seemed small and innocuous, until a weather cell moved into northern Nevada.

Wildflowers in field

When Natives Persist

One researcher examines how native plants can compete with invasives

In the spring of 2019 Elizabeth Leger drove out from her botany lab at the University of Nevada, Reno to her field site on the western edge of the 435,000 acres burned in the Martin Fire.

Gordon Custer with lab equipment

Looking Underground

Tiny soil organisms may hold the key to managing invasive plants

The four members of Gordon Custer’s research group gather around as he walks through the steps of data collection.

Rainbow over grassy hills

Herbicides in Wildlands

What do we really know about their effects?

As Cara Nelson, a researcher and professor of ecosystem science and restoration at the University of Montana, hiked around Missoula’s foothills, she noticed abundant knapweed and cheatgrass growing amidst native bunchgrasses and wildflowers.

Ventenata in grass field

Early Detection and Rapid Response

Can a highly coordinated team of experts and weed managers stop a new invasive species?

For many westerners, cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) is the exemplar invasive weed, well known for thriving in sagebrush landscapes where it crowds out native plants, fuels a devastating fire regime, and threatens wildlife and livestock grazing.

Phragmites in water

Fighting Phragmites

Systematic landscape planning software improves the odds against a despised invasive reed

It’s a hot, sunny day in early April, and I’m out collecting GPS coordinates for stands of wetland vegetation in the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge on the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

Chloe Mattilio with drone controls

The Toadflax Needle in the Wilderness Haystack

Using technology to detect and map new invasive species arrivals

The Noxious Weed

Since dalmatian toadflax was introduced in Wyoming, it has checked off all the boxes of an invasive species—it outcompetes native vegetation, reduces biodiversity, and is not palatable for wildlife or livestock.