Summer has come early to drought stricken Cedar City, Utah. With temperatures rising and not a rain cloud in sight, many plants have already flowered and are about to go to seed. One such plant is the dreaded scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium); a noxious and invasive plant here in Utah. Even though scotch thistle is beautiful when flowering, it competes with native plant species for the meager resources available in this high mountain dessert region. To combat this invader we have spent many hours chopping it down and digging it up.
However, not all my time here in Cedar City has been spent controlling the weeds. These last two weeks that I have spent with the Bureau of Land Management have been filled with new experiences and opportunities to learn. I have been able to participate in Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida) and southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) surveys, been refreshed on how to operate a 4WD vehicle and toured the field office with the regional botanist. I have had the opportunity to see some native wildlife that, although a native myself, I had never seen in the wild – the Arizona mountain king snake ( Lampropeltis pyromelana pyromelana) and the threatened Mexican spotted owl.
On the weekends I have been able to enjoy the national parks that are nearby; summiting Lady Mountain in Zion National Park was an awesome feat! Thank goodness for public lands!