Around The Parks: Great Basin Water, Zion's Sick Bighorns, Civil War Program, Taxes For Arch

Great Basin's Water Woes

Water is a precious thing in the Great Basin of Utah and Nevada, and the decision by Utah's governor not to endorse a plan to send groundwater from the region to Las Vegas is great news for Great Basin National Park.

For nearly four years Utah and Nevada officials have been trying to negotiate an agreement over management of the Snake Valley groundwater system. The north-south running valley is nearly 120 miles long and over 15 miles wide, bound by the Snake Range and Deep Creek mountains to the west and the Confusion Range to the east.

Its proximity to Great Basin National Park raised fears of how siphoning some of the groundwater would impact the park.

“History warns us of the strong potential for dust bowl conditions created by the water mining project, which is proposed for construction at anguishing public expense. If allowed to move forward, this project could dry up the area and plunder Great Basin National Park, threaten the region’s rural life, and create health issues that would multiply economic and social losses," said Lynn Davis, Nevada program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. "The BLM already rejected the proposed pipeline extension into Snake Valley as a result of the water agency’s inability to determine impact to wildlife and surrounding communities – enough is enough. Governor Herbert’s decision reinforces sensible decision making. It’s time to scrap the idea of this pipeline all together.”

Added David Nimkin, NPCA's Southwest regional director, "The pipeline stands to negatively and forever impact Great Basin National Park and surrounding communities and ecosystems. Construction of the pipeline, estimated to cost over $15 billion, along with the Governor’s agreement, would have allowed Las Vegas to draw down groundwater from valleys between Delta, Utah and Great Basin National Park."

Zion National Park's Sick Sheep

Sore Mouth Disease (also known as contagious ecthyma) is thought to be responsible for the illness observed among the bighorn sheep population at Zion National Park. Sore Mouth Disease is a virus similar to chicken pox, and like chicken pox is typically self-limiting and usually a mild disease. It is transmittable to people if direct contact with infected sheep occurs. The park is reminding visitors not to approach or touch wildlife.

Sore Mouth Disease is common throughout the world in wild and domestic sheep and goats. Spread from ewes to lambs, it can manifest itself in sores around the mouths of lambs and cause mastitis of the ewes’ teats. Lesions typically disappear in 2-4 weeks. It has the greatest effect on lambs, which because of sore mouths, refuse to suckle. Though rarely fatal, park biologists expect to see some mortality. Since the incubation period is 1-2 weeks, visitors could possibly see sick animals for many months as the disease moves through the population.

There is no cure for Sore Mouth Disease in sheep; only supportive treatment can be given. Treatment is not a viable option due to the number of animals involved and the stress sedation puts on sick animals. Sore Mouth Disease is not eradicable but subsequent outbreaks are usually less severe.

Sore Mouth Disease is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can spread from infected sheep to humans. People exposed to the virus, especially those with poor immune systems, can develop sores on their hands after touching the saliva or open sores of infected sheep. In humans, the sores are painful but usually resolve on their own without treatment. To date, there have been no reported human cases.

“People should never be approaching wildlife at Zion National Park, so we do not expect to have any issues with visitors contracting this disease from the bighorn sheep,” said Zion Superintendent Jock Whitworth. “It is hard to watch a disease spread through a population, but we need to let nature take its course.”

If visitors inside the park do see a dead or dying bighorn sheep, please notify the park dispatch at 435-772-3256.

Civil War Conscription Topic Of Talk

This coming Wednesday conscription during the Civil War will be the topic of conversation during the "Major Battles of the Civil War" program at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site and Mentor Public Library in Mentor, Ohio.

The presentation will be held at noon in the James R. Garfield Community Room of the Mentor Public Library, located at 8215 Mentor Avenue in Mentor.

The Union and Confederacy both used conscription to grow their military forces during the Civil War. Joan Kapsch, a guide at the historic site, will discuss how effective draftees were as soldiers and will also examine such famous incidents as the 1863 New York City draft riots.

This program is free of charge, but please make a reservation by calling Mentor Public Library at 440-255-8811. Attendees are invited to bring a lunch to enjoy during the program. Following the April 10 program, the next presentation in this series will be at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8, and will examine the May 1863 battle of Chancellorsville.

St. Louis Voters Raise Taxes For Arch

Voters in St. Louis last week willingly agreed to raise their taxes a bit to invest in the Gateway Arch at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Passage of the measure is expected to generate $780 million over two decades, money that will be used to improve parks, trails, and grounds in and around the national memorial.

Some funds also will be used to expand the Arch's museum, according to local media reports.