Ron Hellstern

Ron Hellstern Contributor to Wild About Utah
Ron Hellstern
Contributor to Wild About Utah
A mighty tree has fallen- but its seed has been cast far and wide through his great works. I speak of a frequent Wild About Utah contributor, educator, and conservationist. On January 3rd, 2020, Ron Hellstern left us for the great beyond. He was the personification of Wild About Utah.

Ron’s legacy can be found in the thousands of youth who accompanied him in the classroom and field where they participated in many citizen science projects for birds, butterflies, countless tree plantings, restoring streamside environments, and competing in the Utah Envirothon, which Ron helped establish in Utah

He preferred the title “Redrock Ron” which Ron earned from his unflagging love for Utah’s red rock country, culminating with Zion N.P. His contributions there were many- writing curriculum for the park, Christmas bird counts, assisting with the state Envirothon competition which he convinced Zion to host, and much more. His greatest thrill were the many family hikes and campouts he reveled in, to have those near and dear with him to partake of its splendors.

Closer to home, Ron was synonymous with monarch butterflies, fireflies, and reforestation. He spent many years with students and others hatching, tagging, and releasing monarchs to help map their western migration patterns, adding new information to assist with their preservation. Ron was a relentless advocate for planting milkweed, the host plant for rearing the monarch’s chrysalis and caterpillars.

Once he discovered fireflies in a city marsh, Ron realized this rarity needed protection. As both a city council member and citizen, he convinced the city of their unique importance. The Nibley firefly park was the result. A few thousand folks showed up for its inauguration.

And “Trees are the answer” from Ron’s perspective. His plantings were notorious throughout our valley- from school grounds to open lots, his town recognized as a Tree City USA. Ron deeply appreciated all that trees provide for people, wildlife, protecting soil and our mountains watersheds. It seemed that whenever I visited Ron, he was planting yet another tree.

Ron was instrumental in establishing the first “Childrens Forest” with the USFS in Logan Canyon. He was the primary force behind his town of Nibley receiving Utah’s first, and yet only, designation as a Wildlife Friendly City through the National Wildlife Foundation.

Ron Hellstern with Elderberries Courtesy and Copyright Morgan Pratt, Photographer
Ron Hellstern with Elderberries
Courtesy and Copyright Morgan Pratt, Photographer
As a member and major contributor to the Utah Society for Envioronmental Education and North American Association for EE, Ron’s influence as an extraordinary educator was recognized. He served on both boards where his influence was felt forming policy and programs on a state and international level. Ron was a relentless champion of classroom teachers in both of these acclaimed organizations.

Ron was a kindred spirit, the brother I never had. His presence will never leave me- every tree, monarch butterfly, firefly, trip to redrock country, Ron will be with me.

This is Jack Greene in behalf of our dear friend- Ron Hellstern

Credits:

Images: Courtesy TBA
Images: Courtesy Morgan Pratt for Ron Hellstern
Audio: Contains Audio Courtesy and Copyright Kevin Colver
Text:     Jack Greene, USU and Bridgerland Audubon Society

Sources & Additional Reading:

Ron Hellstern Obituary, HJ News, Legacy, https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/name/ronald-hellstern-obituary?pid=194911386

Ron Hellstern Author Page, Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/ron-hellstern/

Hellstern, Ron, Christmast Trees, Wild About Utah, Nov 25, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/christmas-trees/

Hellstern, Ron,More From The Hidden Life of Trees, Wild About Utah, September 30, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/more-from-the-hidden-life-of-trees/

Hellstern, Ron, The Hidden Life of Trees, Wild About Utah, August 26, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/the-hidden-life-of-trees/

Hellstern, Ron, The Colorado Plateau, Wild About Utah, July 22, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/the-colorado-plateau/

Hellstern, Ron, Living in snake country – six things to consider, Wild About Utah, July 1, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/living-in-snake-country/

Hellstern, Ron, Hungry Hummingbirds, Wild About Utah, May 27, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/hungry-hummingbirds/

Hellstern, Ron, Lawn Reduction, Wild About Utah, April 22, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/lawn-reduction/

Hellstern, Ron, Silent Spring Revisited, Wild About Utah, March 25, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/silent-spring/

Hellstern, Ron, Seventh Generation, Wild About Utah, February 4, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/seventh-generation/

Hellstern, Ron, Ron Describes Exotic Invasive Species, Wild About Utah, January 21, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/ron-describes-exotic-invasive-species/

2018

Hellstern, Ron, Winter Bird Feeding, Wild About Utah, December 31, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/winter-bird-feeding/

Hellstern, Ron, Ron Imagines a World Without Trees, Wild About Utah, December 24, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/ron-imagines-a-world-without-trees/

Hellstern, Ron, Bird Feeding in Winter, Wild About Utah, November 26, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/bird-feeding-in-winter/

Hellstern, Ron, Composting, Wild About Utah, October 29, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/composting/

Hellstern, Ron, Wildfires, Wild About Utah, October 8, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/wildfires/

Hellstern, Ron, Invasive Species, Wild About Utah, September 24, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/invasive-species/

Hellstern, Ron, Migration, Wild About Utah, September 24, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/migration/

Hellstern, Ron, Exotic Invasive Species, Wild About Utah, September 17, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/exotic-invasive-species/

Hellstern, Ron, Incredible Hummingbirds, Wild About Utah, August 27, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/incredible-hummingbirds/

Hellstern, Ron, Leave it to Beaver, Wild About Utah, July 30, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/leave-it-to-beaver/

Hellstern, Ron, Keep Utah Clean, Wild About Utah, July 23, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/keep-utah-clean/

Hellstern, Ron, Knowing Trees, Wild About Utah, June 25, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/knowing-trees/

Hellstern, Ron, Attracting Birds and Butterflies to Your Yard, Wild About Utah, May 28, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/attracting-birds-and-butterflies-to-your-yard/

Hellstern, Ron, Poetry of the Forest, Wild About Utah, April 23, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/poetry-of-the-forest/

Hellstern, Ron, A World Without Trees, Wild About Utah, April 2, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/a-world-without-trees/

Hellstern, Ron, Journey North, Wild About Utah, March 19, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/journey-north/

Hellstern, Ron, Project FeederWatch, Wild About Utah, February 26, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/project-feederwatch/

Hellstern, Ron, Utah Envirothon, Wild About Utah, January 29, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/utah-envirothon/

2017

Hellstern, Ron, Winter Bird Feeding, Wild About Utah, December 17, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/winter-bird-feeding/

Hellstern, Ron, Farewell Autumn, Wild About Utah, November 13, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/the-farewell-of-autumn/

Hellstern, Ron, Autumn Migrations, Wild About Utah, October 16, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/autumn-migrations/

Hellstern, Ron, Majestic Yosemite, Wild About Utah, September 11, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/majestic-yosemite/

Hellstern, Ron, The Zion Narrows, Wild About Utah, August 21, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/the-zion-narrows/

Hellstern, Ron, Build a Certified Wildlife Habitat at Home, Wild About Utah, July 17, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/build-community-wildlife-habitats/

Hellstern, Ron, June Fireflies, Wild About Utah, June 19, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/june-fireflies/

Hellstern, Ron, Conserving Water, Wild About Utah, June 5, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/conserving-water/

Hellstern, Ron, Bird Benefits, Wild About Utah, May 1, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/bird-benefits/

Hellstern, Ron, The End of Royalty?, Wild About Utah, April 24, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/the-end-of-royalty/

Benefits of Being Wild

Benefits of Being Wild: Naomi Wilderness Courtesy and Copyright Matthew Wickenhiser, Photographer
Naomi Wilderness
Courtesy and Copyright Matthew Wickenhiser, Photographer
Imagine a place devoid of randomly constant dings and dongs, a place with no artificial lighting or insistent clicking of keys or ticking of screens. Maybe even a place where one no longer has to think about the persistently pressing matters of politics for even just a brief moment.

Solitude, awe, beauty…breeze, trees, birds…life.

Benefits of Being Wild: Climbing Logan Canyon Courtesy and Copyright Matthew Wickenhiser, Photographer
Benefits of Being Wild: Climbing Logan Canyon Courtesy and Copyright Matthew Wickenhiser, Photographer
Certainly, the place that comes to mind might exist here in Utah. Anyone who has driven more than five hours in any direction can tell you the state doesn’t always look the same. Utah has landscapes ranging from mountains reaching more than 13,000 feet to desert plains dropping down to nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, and everything in between (McNamee, Arrington 2019). The colors of the landscape begin in the north with the deep greens of the forest and end in the south with the rich hues of red and orange. It is this unique and endlessly variable landscape that some argue makes it the perfect place to find happiness.

Hold on. Happiness is not a simple thing to achieve or understand. Sources are both internal and external. But for this story we are focusing on the happiness which comes from being in a mentally beneficial environment. Utah’s incredibly diverse landscape lends itself to be adaptably beneficial to a population of various preferences. It quite literally can suit just about anyone’s partialities. Whether someone likes mild winters in the desert or harsh, bitter, white winters, (which most people on this plant have only heard about in stories) Utah has it all. If someone prefers quiet towns or large and bustling urban centers, thinner air to thicker air; Utah can accommodate. But what do these accommodations have to do with happiness?

There is an ever-growing expanse of research regarding the mental health benefits of nature. Much of this research came about after the establishment of wilderness therapy programs which began to take root in Utah during the latter part of the 1980s. Griffin Woods, a student at Utah State University, experienced one of these wilderness programs. One of the important things he said about experiencing nature was, “People should definitely be pushed more to go outside, get off the phone and be in nature as opposed to being glued to a phone.” (Griffin. Personal communication. October 2019)

This happiness can spread to family members. Many children who participate in an outdoor education program will afterwards ask their parents to take them out into nature so they could “show and tell” them what they have seen and heard.

Benefits of Being Wild: Bike Ride in Moab Courtesy and Copyright Matthew Wickenhiser, Photographer
Bike Ride in Moab
Courtesy and Copyright Matthew Wickenhiser, Photographer
Simply being in place of wilderness can reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall esteem (Arnold, 1994; Bahaeloo-Horeh & Assari, 2008). With this knowledge, Utah becomes an arsenal armed against the harmful habits that deteriorate our daily lives. It enables us to actively increase our attitudes and improve our internal state of mind.

So, this, this is what makes Utah so incredible. This state’s unique ability to make its residents and visitors happier. All you have to do is get outside. We end with this quote from Edward Abbey, “Wilderness is not a luxury but necessity of the human spirit.” So please, feed your spirit, enrich your soul, and enlighten your mind. You exist in arguably one of the most perfect places in the world to do this. Now go be Wild About Utah.

This is Matthew Wickenhiser and I’m Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © Matthew Wickenhiser
Additional audio provided by Friend Weller and Kevin Colver
Text: Matthew Wickenhiser, Utah State University

Additional Reading

Utah Travel Industry Website https://www.utah.com/

Utah, History.com, A&E Television Networks, Nov 9, 2009, https://www.history.com/topics/us-states/utah

Utah: A Geologic History – Utah Geological Survey, Department of Natural Resources, State of Utahhttps://www.history.com/topics/us-states/utah

Utah Forest Overview, USDA Forest Service, https://www.fs.fed.us/rm/ogden/overviews/Utah/OV_Utah.htm

These 20 Utah Landscapes Will Blow You Away With Their Beauty, https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/utah/20-ut-landscapes/

Legacy Beyond Memory

Sunrise over Stunning Landscape Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/skeeze-272447/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1949939">skeeze</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1949939">Pixabay</a>
Sunrise over Stunning Landscape
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
My mother’s father died of cancer three months before I was born. From his memory, I carry his first name as my middle: Orville.

For most of my life, this was all I had of his. Others had stories of him, photos, old reels of film. Through these means, I began over the years to better understand, perhaps not my grandfather as he was, but certainly as he was remembered. I began to see the meaning of my name but only within the memory of others.

Orv was an avid outdoorsman and hunter in the north woods of Wisconsin. He loved nothing more than setting out with his firearm and kit, and coming home with game from that still wild mist. My grandmother refused to clean his wild harvests, and his children, my mother and her sisters, refused as well. Orv’s tradition was not their own.

So my grandfather always cleaned his harvests himself. Each feather he’d pluck and each hide he’d skin defined how others remembered him and how I would know him. He always completed the hunt. This was the only way. When he passed, his ways did as well.

Now, growing up after Orv’s death, my family’s meat came from the grocery store already butchered; no longer an animal: just a morsel for consumption. There was no understanding of life attached to the chicken breasts and the ground beef. Orv’s progeny had no interest in striking out into the woods or marsh before light, or in the taking of a life, even though that take always gave to good cause. They had no interest in cold hands, cold feet, blood, bile, and organs. Why then did Orv? What called him to this tradition, to keep it, to provide by its ways? I felt an indescribable pull towards my lost grandfather, and such the lost grandfathers before him who shared in this tradition of provision.

So one winter, I found Orv’s firearms in my aunt’s basement closet by chance, neglected of care, much less use, for 30 years. Seeing them there I knew that they needed to be used and no longer lay wrapped in an old sheet hidden behind older luggage. I did not want my grandfather to be an artifact of the past. I wanted him to be still of use: to be a grandfather. I wanted to be connected to the man I never knew.

And so I inherited his firearms that he used to provide for his family, my family, for so many years. After good repair, Orv, held in those heirlooms for so long, became alive again and a future opened back up for him. By reliving his ways, I could resurrect him from the stories, photos, and film reels. Together, we could see the world, hunt, and better understand what is beyond life and death.

So with my grandfather’s firearms revived, I began to learn how to hunt from experienced ethical friends. I learned how to aim to kill so that no animal may suffer. I learned my bag limits, my off limits, and the eternal unwritten rules on how to consider the life of another living thing with the greatest respect. We hunt for the necessity of food, tradition, and remembering where we come from and must one day go.

It has been years since Orv’s guns came to me, and I to them. Since then, I have learned from more friends how to lay in wait in Cutler Marsh for ducks, or where to walk in the Cache for grouse. I have discovered that Utah is more than its cultures, its economy, its governments. I have discovered that this land called Utah allows me chances like no other to walk with my grandfather: to feel my cold hands and cold feet as his must have been, to have the shared blood on my hands symbolising that highest tradition of provision, respect, and admiration for life.

This land called Utah is magical. Utah allows ghosts to escape the purgatory of memory for life renewed. Utah allows invisible and forgotten families to be whole again. Utah lets us better live a life of respect and gratitude for every living creature, harvested, missed, or let on by.

From my grandfather, I now can hope with great joy that one day I will be able to live beyond my remembrance as well, guiding from the grave those who come next on what it means to live with the land as my grandfather did, and giving eyes to see the real Utah, the land, as beautifully as we do.

I’m Patrick Orville Kelly, my grandfather is Orville Carl Knutson, and we are Wild About Utah.

 
Credits:

Images: Sunrise image Courtesy Pixabay, Public Domain
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio includes audio courtesy and copyright Kevin Colver
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Our Team, Stokes Nature Center, http://logannature.org/staff [referenced 8 Jan 2020]

A Solstice Vignette

Winter Trail Courtesy Pixabay
Winter Trail
Courtesy Pixabay
In the frigid dark of long winter nights, we tell stories—stories of thievery, heroism, and light. Raven, Maui, and Koo-loó-pe, the hummingbird. They are all said to have taken back the sun from too much darkness for their people, and their deeds remain the whispered subjects around campfires that lead up to the winter solstice. I’d like to tell a story of my own about our calendar’s longest, darkest night and our relationship with it.

The first archaeological evidence we have that point to organized observances of the winter solstice come from the Neolithic period—that era from about 12,000 to 6,500 years ago which hastened the Stone Age into those of Copper and Bronze. The Neolithic coincided with the invention of farming in the Near East; and on the heels of farming came the necessity of a calendar, upon which the new agrarian economy was utterly dependent—for delineating seasons, planting and harvesting crops, and monitoring food stores over winter. We looked to the sky, of course, as we always had, for such insights into the survival of our species. We found familiar patterns there—the ebb and flow of darkness and light that came with the ever changing arc of the sun. From north to south the sun wanders, from light to dark and warm to cold. We built shrines to its movement. You know their names: Stonehenge and Newgrange; the Goseck circle and Chaco Canyon’s sun dagger. Each culture would create its own method of tracking, observing, and then of celebrating. We built tools, and then shrines, and then we built mythology.

The Neolithic agrarian economy lived by the sun. As darkness fell on wintery fields, our Stone Age ancestors shared stories about that moment when the light would return, hoping that their characters could hasten the sun. Reverence is a powerful thing. It informs the stories we tell about ourselves–stories of existence balanced on moments. We revere the return of the light when the night is at its darkest and longest. That’s when we send Raven, Maui, or an exuberant Miwok hummingbird to bring the sun back from too much darkness. That’s the mythology, at least.

A Solstice Vignette: The Seasons Courtesy US NWS
The Seasons
Courtesy US NWS
Astronomically speaking, the winter solstice is ephemeral. In the northern hemisphere, it occurs at the exact moment when the northern portion of the Earth’s axis is tilted directly away from the sun at its farthest point. This year, in the Mountain West, that moment is Saturday, December 21st, at 9:19pm. But astronomy’s geometries and physics are only part of the tale. Our stories are told with an affinity for more than just practical science.

Solstice means “to be still,” to wait for the return of the light. We attach great meaning to it. The cluster of holidays we have in winter worldwide are evidence enough of that. Every culture recognizes, in its own way, the vast significance of this fleeting moment; and those observances connect us through time to the ancestors that first looked up—marking time, checking dates, counting bushels until the next harvest. The solstice is a moment we barely notice, but one that bears immense anticipation. We move right through it at the speed of time—then tell our stories to lend meaning to that time spent moving, from the light through to darkness and back again.

I’m Josh Boling, and I’m Wild About Utah!

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy US NWS
Photos: Courtesy Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/photos/snow-weather-trail-winter-autumn-834111/
Sound: Courtesy & Copyright Josh Boling & Friend Weller
Text: Josh Boling, 2018

Sources & Additional Reading

Astronomy Picture of the Day, NASA, https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap071222.html

Solstices & Equinoxes for Ogden (Surrounding 10 Years), TimeandDate.com, https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/seasons.html?n=4975

Byrd, Deborah, All you need to know: December solstice, EarthSky.org, Dec 15, 2019, https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/everything-you-need-to-know-december-solstice