Photo Point Monitoring Showcases Habitat Trends
Whiskey Peak is one of the prominent landmarks in the northeastern Red Desert and the highest point in the Green Mountains. The northwestern slopes of the Green Mountains drain into Willow Creek and eventually join the Sweetwater River. Willow Creek meanders throughout the Whiskey Peak grazing allotment, which over the last century has experienced significant changes in livestock grazing types and timing of use, forage utilization and livestock management.
One effective way to detect and record change is through repeat photography of a specific area of interest, also known as photo point monitoring. If one picture is "worth a thousand words," then those words can be used to describe ecosystem changes like vegetation cover, presence / absence of certain positive and negative species, richness of habitat, stream and riparian health, and many other environmental factors that are evident in each photograph. Continuing to rephotograph the exact site through time only adds to the story.
(Above) Upper Willow Creek in 1987
(Below) Upper Willow Creek in 1992
Land managers and ranchers can use photo point monitoring to help describe longer-term trends within each grazing allotment. Each photo can be discussed in terms of the usage by livestock, wildlife and/or feral animals based on grazing rotation records or population estimates at that time. Validating a positive trend in habitat based on photo point monitoring can help reaffirm management decisions.
(Above) Upper Willow Creek in 1996
(Below) Upper Willow Creek in 2002
In July of 2018, under the leadership of Andy Warren with the Rawlins BLM Field Office, all the livestock grazing permittees of the Whiskey Peak grazing allotment gathered to locate and rephotograph the sites that Andy first photographed in 1987. As seen in this collection of five photos, significant change in upland and riparian habitats exists over the last 31 years. From 1987 to 2018, what jumps out at you?
(Above) Upper Willow Creek in 2018
(Below) Andy Warren (Rawlins BLM) and livestock grazing permittees in the Whiskey Peak grazing allotment take part in the rephotography of historic photo point monitoring sites