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Utah desert wetlands abundant with migrating birds

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As the water in Utah’s Pariette Wetlands evaporates in the June heat, manager Darren Williams wonders what its future holds. Encompassing 9,204 acres, including 2,529 classified as wetlands or riparian, Pariette is the Bureau of Land Management’s largest wetland development in Utah, but tucked out of the way in the desert, even many locals have never seen this marshy expanse. “A lot of people born and raised here say they didn’t know it was here,” Williams said. Pariette Wetlands sits in eastern Utah’s high desert, 50 miles southwest of Vernal. The country is naturally dry, but in the early 1970s, BLM biologists noticed a water impoundment, created by ranchers with permits to graze cattle on the land, had begun to take on the characteristics of natural wetlands. By 1972, the agency had installed a system of dikes and dams to create 25 ponds from a perennial stream to improve waterfowl production and seasonal habitat for other species. The ponds began attracting an abundance of birds: American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos). White-faced ibis (Plegadis chihi). Herons and egrets. Diving ducks and dabbling ducks. In recent years, wood ducks (Aix sponsa) began appearing. “Just about every species that is known to occupy the [...]

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