Location: This region is arid, gently sloping, drier and less suitable for agriculture than the Columbia Plateau or the Snake River Plain. The light-colored soils are often high in salt and alkali content. Primary land use is grazing.
Climate: The ecoregion is arid, with mid-latitude steppe and mid-latitude desert climates marked by hot summers and cold winters.
Vegetation: Non-mountain areas have sagebrush steppe vegetation and some cool season grasses. Mountain big sagebrush, Wyoming big sagebrush, low sagebrush, bluebunch wheatgrass, rabbitbrush, Idaho fescue, Thurber needlegrass are dominant species with some scattered juniper. Ranges are generally covered in mountain sagebrush, mountain-mahogany, juniper, and Idaho fescue at lower and mid-elevations; Douglas fir and aspen are common at higher elevations.
Hydrology: Mostly ephemeral and intermittent streams flow here, with some perennial streams at higher elevations fed by snowmelt or springs. Larger rivers include the Owyhee. Some scattered lakes and ephemeral pools are found, along with internally drained basins and playa lakes.
Terrain: The region contains tablelands, intermontane basins, dissected lava plains, scattered north-south trending mountains, and valleys with long, gently sloping alluvial fans. Elevations range from about 800 masl in deep canyons to over 3,000 masl on highest mountain peaks. Tertiary volcanic rocks are common, with some Paleozoic sedimentary rocks exposed in some mountains. Aridisols and Mollisols are common, with mesic and frigid soil temperature regimes and xeric and aridic soil moisture regimes.
Wildlife: Prominent species include mule deer, pronghorn, and coyotes. A waterfowl migration route crosses the region and is used by tundra swans, lesser snow geese, American widgeons, pintail, canvasback, and ruddy ducks, sandhill cranes, white pelican, golden eagle, gray flycatcher, northern sage sparrow. There are endemic desert fish species in basin lakes and springs.
Land Use/Human Activities: Ranching and livestock grazing is common and dryland and irrigated agriculture occur in eastern basins. Other land uses include recreation and wildlife habitat. Population is low and settlements are few. Larger towns includes Soda Springs.
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Commission for Environmental Cooperation; North American Terrestrial Ecoregions—Level III; April 2011.
Photos taken in October 2013 along highways-
Just Another Nature Enthusiast Photography by Jane Wilson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.