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Mapping project tracks challenges coming to Arizona, other western states

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Researchers are working on a mapping project that will chronicle climate change, population growth, oil drilling and other factors in an area that stretches across Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The research team from Northern Arizona University and the U.S. Geological Survey found that Flagstaff was among several areas considered a hotspot in the Colorado Plateau where high intensity land use overlaps with some of these
factors, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.

Other areas with major overlaps included Moab, Utah, a city known for a robust tourism economy and nearby oil and gas development, and Vail, Colorado, which researchers think may see a decline in snowpack following climate change.

Researchers predicted that 99 percent of the plateau that stretched across the four corner states will experience drying by 2075. They also thought that average aridity in the area over the last 30 years will increase by 17 percent.

The research suggested that areas where these issues overlap were likely to lose vegetation, wildlife habitat and water availability in the coming years.

By mapping areas with overlap, officials can see where they expected challenges with land management to arise and where they should prioritize future studies, said John Bradford with the U.S. Geological Survey Southwest Biological Science Center.

The study also noted what local people can do to build up resiliency to climate change.

“It’s really important to think about land use impacts because they are something we can readily manage for,” said co-author Stella Copeland.

“Management of land use will potentially have a big impact on our adaptation to climate change.”

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