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Mountains Majesty: Ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains







Rivers Run From It

Take a Trip

Zones of Life

Geology Rocks

Rocky Mountain Animals Then and Now


Based on an article in
Science & Children Magazine,
Published by the National Science Teachers Association, Nov.-Dec. 2004

Editor's Note: The poster from this publication was selected as a finalist in the 2005 National Association for Interpretation (NAI) Media Awards for 2005.


Mountains and river
Mountains and wildflowers
Mountains and wildflowers
Mountains and wildflowers
Top photo by Leland Howard, www.wilderness; inset photos by Talie Morrison
Traveling from the East, one can see the towering snow-covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains long before reaching the foothills. But to fully appreciate these mountains, one must venture into them and experience up close the colorful bursts of summer wildflowers, the glittering leaves of the quaking aspen, the cold clear alpine streams and lakes, and the distinctive sweet scent of the ponderosa pine.

The Rocky Mountains, whose ecosystems range from hot, dry desert to cold, snow-covered alpine, are a study in diversity. About 4,500 plant species native to the Rocky Mountains support a variety of animal species, from the tiniest butterflies to the largest mammals such as moose, bison, and grizzly bears. This ecological diversity can be seen on private, state, and federal lands, including the public lands administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The Rocky Mountain region, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, is valued for other reasons, too. Important mineral and energy resources are located underground. Its rivers deliver fresh clean water to surrounding communities and its forests, meadows, and rangelands provide economic and social benefits for those whose livelihoods depend on these natural resources.

This article introduces teachers and students to some of the diverse ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains while noting the BLM's challenges in managing the land's resources. An accompanying foldout includes a number of hands-on classroom activities aligned with national science standards.

A climb up the Rockies will…strengthen one’s appreciation of the beautiful world outdoors and put one in touch with the infinite.

—Enos A. Mills, 1924