Mike Holiopter, University of Utah
New facilities at Rio Mesa Center are attracting more researchers to the University of Utah’s field station in southeastern Utah.

RIO MESA, Grand County — The University of Utah and the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management recently dedicated a BLM-funded native plant demonstration garden at the Rio Mesa Center, a 400-acre research field station managed by the U. on the Dolores River in southeastern Utah.

U. President David Pershing was joined by BLM state director Juan Palma this past weekend to tour the garden. In addition, new facilities that will aid in the future success of the U.’s long-term goals for the center were also on display.

A new grant from BLM’s Colorado Plateau Native Plants Program will make possible the installation of a second, research-focused garden at Rio Mesa. Characteristics of native plants from across the Colorado Plateau will be studied and evaluated for potential commercial development by seed growers in the region.

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The new garden complements the native plant demonstration garden the BLM funded in 2011. These projects are part of a multiyear joint research program being initiated by the U. and the BLM focused on biological diversity of plants in the area, as well as long-term educational opportunities.

The garden will be used to increase awareness of the need for, and use of, locally adapted native plant materials on the Colorado Plateau. Native plant species in the area are under increasing pressure from population growth, climate changes and expanding oil and gas development. Funded by the BLM, the garden was designed and installed by students from the U.’s College of Architecture and Planning and students in supervised service learning projects from the U.’s Bennion Center.