With exponentially more participation in outdoor recreation across the nation, the topic of noticeable changing natural resources cannot be ignored. Recent closures of Prescott’s own National Forest areas, coupled with drought conditions, enforces an urgency to spread awareness to the community.
In the Southwest, drought conditions have been deemed the worst in two decades.
The Prescott area also is experiencing a resurgence of the bark beetle that take out ponderosa pines. The local University of Arizona Cooperative Extension published a document stating that while pine bark beetles kill vulnerable ponderosa (vulnerable due to drought or lightning, etc.) each year, it becomes alarming when the loss is a visible infestation.
Guidelines for slash management, including trees cut for construction purposes, suggest cut ponderosa be treated within 30 days. The document lays out how to make the pines uninhabitable for the beetles to breed and thrive. It does note there are “no practical effective sprays or injections” to stop attacks on healthy trees.*
Following a record-breaking fire season in 2020 and lack of measurable precipitation during the monsoon season, drying lakes and rivers throughout the West are impacting produce production and salmon populations. The Hawaiian Islands are even facing heightened wildfire risks.
Arizona is in the Colorado River Basin, which is made up of Lake Powell and Lake Mead and serves approximately 40 million people. Both are reaching record low levels drawing the attention of first-ever federal mandated-use cutbacks. Much of the reservoirs decline can be attributed to greenhouse-gas-warming globally.
There is hope — starting with awareness. State, tribal and federal water managers are renegotiating interim guidelines in hopes of mitigating high demand amid low supply on the Colorado River Basin. Official new guidelines are expected to go into place in 2026.
What can be done on a community level?
Having informed conversations is a great start.
Many of the natural resources that contribute to the quality of life in Prescott are being changed or diminished. Amid a national housing crisis, vulnerable populations such as our transient and homeless are combating record temperatures, decreased air quality from fires, and other everyday basic needs often taken for granted.
I encourage you to think about and discuss with others how to implement small changes toward a more sustainable future.
* Pine Bark Beetles: www.extension.arizona.edu/sites/extension.arizona.edu/files/pubs/az1300-2015.pdf