Around 40 million people from across the globe visit national wildlife refuges every year. At Utah’s Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, some may come to hunt or fish, but the vast majority of visitors are there to witness species such as the American Avocet or White-faced Ibis in their natural state.
Becka Downard with the Utah Division of Water Quality has worked with partners at Utah State University Extension to develop a guide to the plants of the Great Salt Lake area that attract such a diversity of bird species.
“So, it’s about 150 pages and it’s got pictures of all of the different plants that we’ve found in wetlands and it goes through community by community," she said. "So you’re going to find plants that grow in the water: submerged aquatic vegetation, and then emergent plants that grow in marshy areas and meadow species, and then plants that grow in the upland areas around there. And, for each species, we’ve got a picture of where you will find it, different types of wetlands that it grows in, then identifying features – so, what the flowers look like, the stems and leaves, and then the whole plant itself.”
The guidebook covers the wetland plants found on the whole eastern shoreline of the Great Salt Lake and includes descriptions of what bird species can be found in each different habitat. For birders, bug catchers and plant nerds, this guide provides a new tool that Downard hopes will encourage more people to visit these unique areas.
“You know, different things excite different people and if it’s not going to be the birds to get them out there, a chance to look at native plants might be it. And, I’m hoping it’s a way to make it easier to explore by being able to know what you’re looking at and touching," Downard said.
The guidebook is available to download free of charge at the USU Extension website.
A hard copy can be purchased from the Utah Master Naturalist Program.