High-elevation watersheds on the Wasatch Plateau in central Utah were severely overgrazed in the late 1800s, resulting in catastrophic flooding and mudflows through adjacent communities. Affected citizens petitioned the Federal government to establish a Forest Reserve (1902), and the Manti National Forest was established by the Transfer Act of 1905. The Great Basin Station, a forerunner of the Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, was created in 1911 within this area to study the influence of rangeland vegetation on erosion and floods.
This publication contains a collection of 12 recurring sets of photographs that started in 1913 on these depleted high-elevation rangelands. The sites were rephotographed in the 1940s, 1972, 1990, and 2003. It is also a tribute to two men who pioneered the science of range management-Arthur W. Sampson and Lincoln Ellison. As Directors of the Experiment Station, they initiated and maintained the early photo sites and study plots. It was with these photograph records and study plots that many of the interpretations and guidelines for the management of high-elevation watersheds were developed.
After 90 years, plant community changes on these high-elevation watersheds has led to a vegetation composition significantly different than the original condition. New plant communities have reached thresholds where yearly vegetative composition appears to be climate driven. Many of the higher elevation areas remain in unsatisfactory watershed health with active erosion.