Desert Oasis

The Lytle Preserve in Saint George, Utah, Receives an Impressive Update

The Lytle Preserve
Approximately thirty miles west of Saint George, Utah, off of Old Highway 91, a unique ecosystem brims with everything from Gila monsters to a Joshua tree forest. This hidden oasis is the six-hundred-acre Lytle Preserve, a research and operational facility owned and maintained by Brigham Young University. Originally an old homestead dotted with hand-crafted adobe houses, the Lytle Preserve is currently a prime research center on land development and preservation methods, including burned land recovery. Researchers are attempting to develop techniques that help environments quickly recover from wildfires and other natural disasters.

Beds in the preserve's facilitiesThe Lytle Preserve was purchased in 1986 from The Nature Conservancy. It allows students and educators to learn more about the mysteries of the desert and God’s creations. As Ken Packer, Lytle Preserve Coordinator, says, “There are so many questions we don’t know the answers to in the desert, and the only way to learn more is to be out there in the heat of the day working away.” With land test plots and experimental outposts nestled near research facilities, the preserve is an exciting frontier of exploration that is drawing widespread attention. Researchers from Idaho State University to Germany can be found working with the faculty there to better understand burned land recovery, mysteries of the Mojave Desert, and episodes of “one-hundred-year floods.”

“One-hundred-year floods” are so nicknamed because they are supposed to happen approximately once a century. At the Lytle Preserve, one of the lowest points in Utah, however, floods have been occurring far too often. The last major flood (in 2010) destroyed, in the words of Packer, “literally everything, including our entire infrastructure.” Rebuilding efforts continue to move forward and the outcome looks promising. A twenty-four person dormitory complete with a classroom, common area, and kitchen was recently completed. Constructed on raised ground as a safe haven against future flooding, the dormitory is built in a Spanish-Southwest style complete with wide verandas and appealing adobe architecture. This new facility will allow students to stay on site while also consolidating research and academic material into a centralized area. It is also environmentally friendly, with solar panels and backup generators providing the only sources of power.

Inside the preserve's facilitiesThese updates are part of a larger vision that Packer hopes will culminate with a deeper understanding of and respect for God’s creations. As Packer says, “Lytle Preserve research adds to the knowledge of mankind, and the better we understand God’s creations, the better stewards we will be.”

New facilities, innovative research, and an unparalleled instructional setting make it an exciting time to be associated with the Lytle Preserve. Current research will continue and new programs will be developed to utilize the facility. The preserve is an important part of the College of Life Sciences’ effort to sustain real-life research, and the treasures and discoveries this desert oasis holds are unlimited. The best way to study nature is to be out in it, and the Lytle Preserve provides an unrivaled exploratory opportunity.