Tag Archives: Morgan Heim

Red Desert Caravan on Labor Day Weekend

Honeycomb Buttes After a Storm, Wyoming's Red Desert (Photo/Morgan Heim)

Who says you need to go to Africa to go on Safari?

Got this announcement today for a fun adventure in the Red Desert. I’ve been many times to all of these places and they are well worth the trip! I’ve got below a little preview of the sites and a description.

Note from Erik Molvar, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance.

BCA will be leading our 3-day Red Desert Caravan outing a free public outing over Labor Day weekend, September 3rd through 5th, visiting the units of a potential Red Desert National Conservation Area.

This three-day auto safari will take in Adobe Town, the Kinney Rim, and Jack Morrow Hills highlights such as the Boar’s Tusk, Killpecker Dune Fields, and Honeycomb Buttes.Auto tour with car camping and light day hikes.

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Participants can also choose to participate in an optional photography workshop on the trip.

Regional Photographer Dan Hayward will attend this Red Desert excursion and is putting together one of his outdoor photography workshops to coincide with the BCA trip.  Workshop participants will be part of the BCA group during the excursion but will spend a substantial part of each morning and evening, and each mid-day as time permits, photographing as a group and out on their own.   Things will be somewhat structured yet quite flexible!

The photography workshop includes one or two photography lecture/discussions led by Dan before the Red Desert trip, and a group photo-review/critique session after the trip.  For more workshop details and prices, please contact Dan either through any of the e-mail links on his web site at <haywardphoto.com>  or by phone at 307  742-6307.

All participants must register with BCA (regardless of whether you participate in the photography workshop or not) and get a reserved spot on the tour. Contact Erik Molvar at (307) 742-7978, or via email erik@voiceforthewild.org, to sign up.

Space is limited, so sign up today!

Wyoming’s Red Desert: A Photographic Journey

Wyoming's Red Desert: A Photographic Journey

Wyoming's Red Desert: A Photographic Journey by Erik Molvar and Laguna Wilderness Press

One of America’s most untapped wilderness experiences gets a little more accessible with the new book Wyoming’s Red Desert: A Photography Journey, edited by Erik Molvar. If you’ve never heard of the Red Desert, you should check out this book.

This 6 million acre region of southwestern Wyoming is the largest unfenced area left in the Lower 48, and one of the harshest, most remote, impressively extreme environments left to explore in the United States. For scale, think Denali National Park big, though the landscape and wildlife is much different. You can hike through the largest active sand dune system in the United States. Find dinosaur bones and explore hoodoo canyons that served as hideouts for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Be careful. The only map you’re likely to take is the one you make (or the one that starts off this book). Geologic landmarks rather than signs are what will mostly light your way. I’ve got a few photos in there, but the book includes imagery from a host of talented photographers, and those few intrepid souls who’ve ventured into the “Big Empty” thus far.

Get a sneak peek of the book here –> LWP_RedDesert_R1

You can buy the book here.

Greater sage grouse worth endangered species listing, but other species come first

There’s only so much room on the endangered species list, and greater sage grouse will have to wait in line a little longer to receive protection. A report released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declares that the bird is heading towards extinction and warrants listing, but does not take priority for designation as about 250 other species are in more immediate danger.

The announcement serves notice to land managers and the energy industry to bulk up conservation efforts for the grouse, but these efforts will take place without the backing power of listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“Voluntary conservation efforts on private lands, when combined with successful state and federal strategies, hold the key to the long-term survival of the greater sage-grouse,” said Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland in a press release.

Across the West, greater sage grouse populations dwindled to about 56 percent of their former range. In places like Wyoming’s Red Desert, key habitat for the grouse and an energy development hotspot, populations dropped 90 percent in the last 50 years, according to Lorraine Keith, public affairs officer with the Rock Springs office of the Bureau of Land Management. This 90 percent drop isn’t just because of energy development, the decline started before the energy boom, said Keith. But if the trends of the last 50 years continue, many populations will disappear in the next 30 to 100 years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The downside of the ruling is that precluding the grouse from listing relies on industry and state agencies to take the necessary management steps to stop the bird’s decline, a practice which so far has left sage grouse shaking in their leks. But the ruling does make conservation efforts for the bird a priority, especially if industry would like development to continue in the West.

“The sage grouse’s decline reflects the extent to which open land in the West has been developed in the last century,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in a press release. “This development has provided important benefits, but we must find common-sense ways of protecting, restoring, and reconnecting the Western lands that are most important to the species’ survival while responsibly developing much-needed energy resources. Voluntary conservation agreements, federal financial and technical assistance and other partnership incentives can play a key role in this effort.”

Though not listed this time, the federal government has their eye on greater sage grouse. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is adding the greater sage grouse to the endangered species candidate list and will undertake annual reviews of the bird in an effort to make sure it doesn’t slip over the edge to extinction.

While not a perfect outcome for the conservation community, the ruling gives them hope for the bird. “Up to this point we’ve seen plans that predict continued sage grouse declines,” said Erik Molvar, wildlife biologist with the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, “but hopefully this decision will be the wake-up call that’s needed to turn things around and compel corporate interests like the oil industry to start using advanced technologies to achieve major reductions in impacts on the sage grouse, other wildlife, and the American West as a whole.”

Red Desert’s Adobe Town wins a pardon from natural gas leasing

Adobe Town

Adobe Town's maze of hoodoos remain relatively unexplored. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

Adobe Town wins a reprieve from natural gas leasing in its Citizen’s Proposed Wilderness. The Bureau of Land Management removed 15 parcels comprising more than 14,800 acres of Adobe Town from the December lease sale.

“It’s breath of fresh air the Bureau of Land Management has decided to draw a line in the sand and not lease away one of our most cherished places,” said Nada Culver, Senior Counsel at The Wilderness Society in a press release.  “This is proof when people from all walks of life stick up for a special spot, we can move mountains and ensure new generations Americans will always have a place to hunt, camp and hike.”

Much of the rock in Adobe Town is really just sandstone, easily eroded or crumbled away. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

Abobe Town’s labyrinth of hoodoos and canyons make it reminiscent of Bryce Canyon, except  in Adobe Town, there are no trails to guide your way. Wyoming declared the area “very rare or uncommon” in 2007, a designation that afforded the land some protection, but not from future oil and gas development. Adobe Town has been one of the most hotly contested regions of the Red Desert, receiving 89,000 comments mostly in favor of its protection during the revision of the Great Divide land-use plan. But leasing continued.

The removal in November of the 15 nominated parcels from the BLM lease marks parts of Adobe Town as too environmentally important to warrant leasing at this time.

Pronghorn munch on sage brush just outside Adobe Town in Wyoming's Red Desert.(Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

“This lease deferral is the first sign that the BLM has started to listen, and could mark the dawn of a new day when oil and gas development proceeds cautiously, and crown jewel landscapes like Adobe Town get the protection they deserve,” said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist with Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in a press release. “The BLM deserves credit for making a sound decision.”

Into the Big Empty: Wyoming’s Red Desert goes live on YouTube

Journey into Wyoming’s Red Desert, a little known wilderness the size of Denali National Park that brings the steppes of Mongolia to America’s backyard. Here, energy companies vie for the desert’s riches in a world of 50,000 pronghorn, herds of wild horses and some of the most unforgiving landscapes of the West. Come learn of this place and the struggles to protect it as you travel Into the Big Empty.

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