Gypsym Addiction

For Endangered Species Day we want to highlight the dwarf bearclaw poppy, which has been a federally listed endangered species since 1979. A plant or animal is listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 when it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. 

The dwarf bearclaw poppy (Arctomecon humilis), is a gypsophile or gypsum-loving plant, having a distinct preference for the gypsum rich soils found in the upper layers of the geologic Moenkopi Formation. It is endemic- or found only in a certain locality or region – to Washington County, Utah, growing at elevations between 2,600 and 3,300 feet. Today, there are only five small populations of dwarf bearclaw poppy remaining, all within a ten mile radius of St George, Utah! 

Photo: Melissa Buchmann, Recreation Intern for BLM-Utah


(Accidentally) Lost in the Wilderness

My ego will take a hit, but I will share with you a recent escapade, when I got lost in the Red Mountain Wilderness. I was completely prepared for a full day hike, with a good amount of water, some snacks, and a couple of maps. I had, on the other hand, forgotten my cell phone in the car and my hiking partner had left the GPS unit behind.

We swiftly walked down a well trampled sandy path for a few hours when it abruptly disappeared. We knew our placement on the map from point A to point B and the general direction we should take, but apart from that, there were absolutely no indications of other human passage. That is to be expected in Wilderness, I know, but we anticipated to at least catch glimpses of footprints scattered here and there (a common mistake). Nothing.

 We are atop of a mountain and just see other mountain tops as far as the eye can see, but we know that there is a way back down closer than the four hour return trip. So, we march on–up and down steep cliffs and deep sandy channels between the brush, getting our hopes up at every potential opportunity to just as quickly feeling betrayed by Mother Nature and fearful that we might have to spend the night a la belle etoile.

 As the sun was threatening to fall, our pace quickened and our spirits dampened. Were we really going to have to sleep up here? My legs started to numb as I repeated in my head, like a mantra, “you will continue on, you will continue on…” The sky darkened and thunder rumbled above the not-so-distant Beaver Dam Mountains. After what seemed like an eternity, we came across some teenagers who were familiar with the area and pointed us in the right direction: down a steep rocky mountain side–which I do not recommend doing, even in broad daylight! With the help of my hiking partner’s phone flashlight we managed to make it down with just a few scratches and bruises, and immediately vowed to be way more prepared for our next adventure!

Lesson Learned:

  • Don’t skip the planning stage! What are the area and weather conditions?
  • Always bring the 10 essentials: navigation, sun protection, insulation, illumination, first aid kit, fire starter, multi-tool or knife, food, water (one gallon per person per day), and an emergency shelter.
  • Tell someone exactly where you are going, with whom, and when you will return. If your plans change, let them know. This can save valuable time in case of a search and rescue operation.

-Iris Picat


Red Butte Wilderness: Step into Nature

A cloudless blue sky stretches out before us as we roll down the maroon-colored Kolob Reservoir Road on our way to Utah’s Red Butte Wilderness, managed by the BLM St George Field Office. We turn off onto an unmarked dirt road, and Red Butte, known for its sandstone spires and domes, looms larger. 

“Bang.” The shutting of the truck’s doors is the last man-made sound we hear. The silence is deafening, creating an air of tranquility that even the birds try to mimic.

Stretching from a low of 5,600 feet to a high of 7,400 feet, the steep grade begins to take its toll. Short of breath, we struggle to traverse through prickly shrubs and escalade what seems like vertical slickrock (alright, I’m exaggerating a little), but as the expansive views unfold before us, thoughts of scratches made only moments before, dissipate entirely. This 1,500 acre wilderness ranges from a sandy wash, which takes us down a slot canyon and ends in a brilliant sandstone amphitheater, to a forested mesa top perfect for picnicking while basking in the sun. We have arrived. Not at our destination exactly, but we’ve succeeded in leaving the hustle-bustle of daily life behind, and entered one of Earth’s natural treasures. 

-Iris Picat


Eagle Scout Signs Technical 4x4 Trails

If Kyle Miller, of Boy Scout Troop 1670, was looking for a challenge, he sure got what he was looking for. Supervising an army of volunteers, Kyle orchestrated the marking of three highly technical four-wheel drive trails in the Sand Mountain OHV Area, successfully completing one of the most innovative and difficult Eagle Scout projects attempted in the St George Field Office!

Kyle and his volunteers used white paint and stencils with a jeep graphic to mark the technical trails known as Double Sammy, East Rim, and Sliplock. The project included organizing 20 four-wheel drive vehicles to navigate the terrain and complete the work.

“Without a doubt, this was one of the most impressive Eagle Scout projects ever done for our office. All the four-wheelers who like to play on Sand Mountain will truly benefit from Kyle’s work.” said Dave Kiel, BLM Recreation Planner.

When asked what he found most challenging about the project, Kyle replied, “For me, it was finding out what it really means to be a leader.” Talk about learning the hard way – orchestrating a full fleet of vehicles while successfully completing such a challenging project is no easy feat!

Story: Dave Kiel, Outdoor Recreation Planner for the BLM St George Field Office

Photos: Justin Lunceford, Project Volunteer 


What did Santa bring you this year? Two New Mountain Biking trails!

Nothing compares to an invigorating winter ride, so take your bike out, and feel the wind rush by as you roll down the 7.2 miles of new singletrack in the popular Hurricane Cliffs Trail System, managed by the BLM St George Field Office (SGFO), in Washington County, Utah. Thanks to a collaborative effort between the BLM, the Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association (DMBTA), and the American Conservation Experience (ACE), two brand new trails have been added: Goosebumps and Cryptobionic.

The first trail follows technical, undulating terrain along the base of Gooseberry Mesa which was the inspiration for it’s name, “Goosebumps.” The second trail is a powerful, high-speed track which parallels the popular JEM trail and threads it’s way deftly through a rugged landscape; sure to be an instant classic, it is called “Cryptobionic.”

“The ACE crew performed admirably, completing the trail construction in brutally cold and snowy conditions which are rare in Southwest Utah!” said Dave Kiel, SGFO outdoor recreation planner who worked on the project.

“It’s pretty amazing what can be accomplished when there’s a shared vision. The Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association volunteers worked really hard on designing a high quality singletrack experience. I won’t give away too much, but there are some unique terrain features that will make riders stop and say ‘whoa, that was awesome.’ Truly, a worthy addition to an already great trail system,” he added.   

-Iris Picat

Photo credit: Dave Kiel, SGFO Outdoor Recreation Planner, and Melissa Buchmann, SGFO Recreation Technician