Livestock, off-road vehicles, oil and gas road development are major culprits-
The Western United States is naturally dusty, right?
With the exception of some dry lake beds and parts of very hot deserts this is not true.
Soil is held in place from the wind by vegetation and rock. Anything that reduces the ground cover to dirt will result in it blowing away in the wind. Even deserts where there appear to be wide barren spaces between plants are not naturally bare. Desert soil is naturally covered by a microbiotic crust. This holds the dirt down except in the strongest winds. Unfortunately, hooves and wheels destroy this crust.
I took the photo above in early April near Pocatello, Idaho, along an old road bed. The road had been closed for 3 years and the area had never been grazed. The road used to produce big clouds of dust. Now that it has largely filled in, it doesn’t.
Story in the Washington Post. Dust Storms Escalate, Prompting Environmental Fears. Increase in Dirt Affects Ecosystems In Western States. By Juliet Eilperin Washington Post Staff Writer