The goal of the center is to create a world-class research center where scientists from all over the world can come to address climate change issues.
Climate change research through The Nature Conservancy indicates that temperatures on the Colorado Plateau may increase up to ten degrees over the next century.
As a result, The Nature Conservancy is joining forces with a wide range of public and private partners to create the research center. Partners include U.S. Geological Survey, Utah State University, National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and the Indian Creek Cattle Company.
Barry Baker is the director of the new effort. Baker has been working for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado on climate change issues. He earned a PhD in climate change interactions from Colorado State University.
Baker said that the focus of the research center is to provide science-based information for land mangers and to help them work effectively work in a variable environment.
“We need on-the-ground solutions to adapt to a variable climate,” said Baker.
Climate change may threaten the area’s outdoor recreation, wildlife, tourism and agriculture industries, increase the risk of heat-related deaths and lead to the disappearance of wildlife and compromised water quality for major rivers.
“From the food we put on the table to plant and animal species that make our state unique, this study shows that none of us is immune if temperatures continue to rise as projected. We can now see that climate change will directly hit us here in Utah, in our own back yards,” said Dave Livermore, director of the Utah chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “If we do not act immediately, our children and grandchildren will live in a very different world than we do today.”
Among the impacts Utah could feel under the temperature increases projected by the Conservancy’s analysis are: damaging dust & water losses, decreased soil fertility, air quality, major industry impacts, endangered wildlife, agricultural losses, invasive plants and animals and fire.
“We’ve got to act now,” said Baker. “There’s still time to develop land and water management strategies that will enable us to adapt and possibly delay the negative impacts of climate change and protect Utah’s communities and natural resources.”
“The Canyonlands Research Center has the potential to generate some of the world’s most important science on the interactions of climate change and land use,” said Joel Tuhy, Director of Science for the Conservancy’s Utah Chapter.
The Utah Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment is the first study of its kind in this area to evaluate actual climate change across the state at a fine, local scale.
Scientists are identifying and mapping the plants, animals and ecological systems in Utah that are deemed to be most vulnerable to changes in climate.
The Conservancy hopes to contribute to a new knowledge base that may be used by conservation practitioners and natural resource agencies in order to best manage our critical natural resources in the face of likely changes we have never seen before.
“We’re excited about conducting this study in Utah for several reasons,” said Baker. “Land managers are eager for science-based data about how to help Utah’s species adapt to climate change. This study could provide our first meaningful local answers.”
The Nature Conservancy says that the Dugout Ranch is an ideal location for the research center. At the heart of the Colorado Plateau, the ranch has a large elevation range, is adjacent to national park lands and already has a large amount of research data.
The Dugout Ranch was purchased by The Nature Conservancy in 1998. Cattle operations at the ranch are under the direction of the Indian Creek Cattle Company.