April Light by May Swenson

May Swenson, 1965 in Tucson
Copyright © L.H. Clark
Courtesy Utah State University Press

Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

In Logan Cemetery a granite bench marks the grave of May Swenson, a native Utahn and eminent poet. She was born in Logan in 1913 and attended Utah State University where she published her first poem. She moved east in 1936, and eventually, she became one of America’s most inventive and recognized poets, She won many awards including Guggenheim and Rockefeller grants, the Yale Bollingen Prize, and the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Utah State University conferred an honorary doctorate on Swenson in 1987. Despite her many achievements and her years living away from Utah, Swenson never forgot her Mormon heritage or her identity as a Westerner.

Nature played a prominent role in Swenson’s work. In fact, she published a collection of poetry called Nature: Poems Old and New which is brimming with imagery that evokes the beauty and complexity of the natural world.

An example is a poem called April Light. Here it is read by Dr. Paul Crumbley, a professor of English at Utah State University.

April light

Lined with light
the twigs are stubby arrows.
A gilded trunk writhes
Upward from the roots,
from the pit of the black tentacles.
In the book of spring
a bare-limbed torso
is the first illustration.
Light teaches the tree
to beget leaves,
to embroider itself all over
with green reality,
until summer becomes
its steady portrait
and birds bring their lifetime
to the boughs.
Then even the corpse
light copies from below
may shimmer, dreaming it feels
the cheeks of blossom.

To learn more about May Swenson and her work, come to Stokes Nature Center on May 1st at 10 AM. Paul Crumbley will present a program entitled “May Swenson’s Poetics of Natural Selection.” For more information, see www.wildaboututah.org

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.

Credits:

Readings: Paul Crumbley, English Department, Utah State University, April Light by May Swenson

Text: Stokes Nature Center: Holly Strand

Sources & Additional Reading

Knudson, R.R. and Suzzanne Bigelow. 1996. May Swenson: A Poet’s Life in Photos. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

Swenson, May. 2000. Nature: Poems Old and New. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Censuses and Surveys

Wolf with Radio Collar watches biologists FWS Digital Library, Photo by William Campbell
Wolf with Radio Collar
Photographer: William Campbell
US FWS

Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

This year’s Census is the 23rd national headcount in United States history.

Census results affect the allocation of all kinds of government financial and program resources. The Census also determines the distribution of seats in
the state and federal House of Representatives.

It is also important to know the number and whereabouts of different wildlife species. This information is used for a number of management purposes– for instance, monitoring the status of endangered species or determining hunting or fishing quotas.

Mountain Lion with Radio Collar
Photographer: Claire Dobert
Courtesy US FWS

Counting wildlife isn’t as easy as counting people. You can’t mail
animals a survey with a self-addressed stamped envelope and you don’t necessarily know where to find them at any given point in time.

True censuses of animals are rare for in most cases a complete count is either too expensive or too difficult to undertake. Only animals conveniently and visibly grouped in a particular location can be censused– such as fish in a fish hatchery, or large animals along a certain migration route.

Setting a waterfowl capture net
Courtesy US FWS

Instead, biologists define an area of interest, then sample at random locations within that area. Samples usually consist of a number of transects or randomly selected quadrants. Counts from these samples are then extrapolated to an entire habitat or study area.

Along with selecting a sampling method, you have to figure out how you are going to effectively count an individual occurrence. This can be extremely tricky. Especially if your animal is reclusive or nocturnal. According to Dr. Eric Gese, a specialist in predator ecology at Utah State University, biologists use tracks, scats, scratches, burrows, hair samples –even roadkill counts as proxies for individual animals.

FWS Biologist Tracking a Black Bear
Photo by John & Karen Hollingsworth,
Courtesy US FWS

Capturing, marking and recapturing animals is one of the most reliable–albeit expensive– ways to do a direct count of animals. Captured animals are marked with ear tags, radio collars, dyes or even radioactive isotopes. In a future program I’ll describe an example of how one scientist tracks and counts large and elusive predators in the wild.

Thanks to Utah State University’s College of Natural Resources for supporting the development of this Wild About Utah topic.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.
Credits:
Images: Courtesy US FWS Digital Library
Text:     Holly Strand, Stokes Nature Center

Sources & Additional Reading:

Gese, E. M. 2001. Monitoring of terrestrial carnivore populations. Pages 372–396 in J. L. Gittleman, S. M. Funk, D. Macdonald, and R. K. Wayne, editors., Carnivore conservation. Cambridge University, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Video: Biologists track hibernating bears for research, KSL Broadcasting Salt Lake City UT, 27 March 2010, http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=647&sid=10166167

American Black Bear, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, wildlife.utah.gov/publications/pdf/bearnew.pdf

(tracking) Black-footed Ferrets, Wildlife Review Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, wildlife.utah.gov/wr/0804ferrets/0804ferrets.pdf

 

Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey, A Life
Cover Courtesy
University of Arizona Press

Holly: Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

Utah nature has influenced a number of eminent nature writers, Edward Abbey among them. A novelist, essayist, and poet, he especially loved the desert southwest– the slickrock desert of southeastern Utah had a special place in his heart. He once declared: “Within this underslung lopsided rump-sprung dough-bellied highly irregular parallelogram lies the least inhabited, least inhibited, least developed, least improved, least civilized, least governed, least priest-ridden, most arid, most hostile, most lonesome, most grim bleak barren desolate and savage quarter of the state of Utah—the best by far. “

Undeniably one of our best western writers. Abbey has been called a “national treasure,” and Thoreau of the American West. He has also been called an arrogant self-centered bigot, a militant conservationist, and America’s crankiest citizen. He was full of contradictions about his own beliefs about nature and society. He could run on and on about the “hooved locust,” his name for cows, grazing everywhere on public land. Then he would order a steak from a restaurant a few hours later.

Born in 1927 in Pennsylvania, Abbey came west to study at the University of New Mexico. He moved to Utah in 1956 to take a job as a ranger in Arches National Monument. During his time in Arches, he created a multi-volume journal of his experiences. He later collapsed the journal material from three seasons into one season to produce one of the bestselling books on nature ever written, Desert Solitaire.

The very first Earth Day, April 22nd 1970 drew millions of people to numerous locations around the country. Abbey was invited to speak in Logan by organizers Thomas Lyons and Ingrid Eisenstadt. He accepted and was favorably impressed by the area and its people. When the University of Utah offered him a post as the first Writer in Residence, he accepted, spending much of his time with Ingrid in Logan in a little house on 6th East.

Abbey didn’t stay in Utah for long. He was a restless man, roving around in search of wilderness or adventure and in pursuit of a number of women, 5 of which became wives at different times of his life.

Eventually, Tucson became his main residence. But he still made many trips to Utah, spending time here and there visiting friends and wild places.

Abbey died in 1989, perhaps in part a victim of his own hard living. As he requested, he was placed in an old sleeping bag and buried beneath a pile of rocks to keep the coyotes away with “No comment” engraved on his gravestone. A wake was held in Saguaro National Monument and then in Moab where 600 of his friends celebrated his life and writing.

Information for this program was gathered from Edward Abbey : A Life by James Calahan. Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation for supporting research and development of this Wild About Utah topic.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.
Credits:

Text: Holly Strand, Stokes Nature Center

Sources & Additional Reading

Abbey, Edward. 1990. Desert Solitaire. Touchstone; Reprint edition http://www.amazon.com/Desert-Solitaire-Edward-Abbey/dp/0671695886

Calahan, M. James. 2001. Edward Abbey : A Life. University of Arizona Press http://www.amazon.com/Edward-Abbey-James-M-Cahalan/dp/0816522677

www.abbeyweb.net

Earl Douglass and Dinosaur National Monument

Douglass Quarry
Dinosaur National Monument
Courtesy National Parks Service

Holly: Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

Dinosaur fever was rampant in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Andrew
Carnegie, the wealthy steel magnate, was not immune. He wanted a huge
dinosaur skeleton for the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. In 1908, Museum
Director W.J. Holland and paleontologist Earl Douglass explored the hills
along the Green River near Jensen UT. They found a 6 foot thigh bone of a
dinosaur. Douglass marked the spot and returned the following year to
explore some more.

It didn’t take Douglass very long to get what he was after– in August of
that same year, he came upon the tail section of an Apatasaurus in Morrison
Formation outcrops near Jensen, UT. Within weeks, Douglass had uncovered
an almost complete skeleton, including 64 tail vertebrae, more than twice
as many that had ever been found in this type of dinosaur. Then to his
amazement, a second Apatasaurus lay right beneath the first!

1500-1600 bones are exposed in the wall
Douglass Quarry
Dinosaur National Monument
Courtesy National Parks Service

There was plenty more to uncover. For 15 years Douglass worked what
became known as the Carnegie Quarry. He unearthed nearly 20 complete
skeletons of Jurassic dinosaurs, including Diplodocus, Dryosaurus,
Stegosaurus, Barosaurus, and Camarasaurus.

Local residents in Jensen and Vernal supported Douglass’s. They visited
him while he worked, sold him food and supplies and occasionally assisted
in excavations. Eventually they began to dream about the quarry’s
potential as a tourist attraction and the effect that would have on their
economy. And although Douglass worked for Carnegie, he shared the locals’
vision of a public exhibit of skeletons on location in northeast Utah.

Unfortunately, public education and improvement of local economies were NOT
goals of the early dinosaur industry. The Carnegie Museum shipped all
excavated material back to Philadelphia. In effect, the dinosaur quarry
was like any other mine being stripped of valuable material. Furthermore,
the Carnegie refused access to other research parties—including those of
the National Museum and the University of Utah.

In 1915, the federal government tried to break the monopolistic hold
Carnegie held on excavations by establishing Dinosaur National Monument. At
first the Monument was an 80 acre tract around the quarry. (Later it was
enlarged to encompass the spectacular canyons of the Green and Yampa Rivers
in neighboring Colorado.) In 1916, Congress created the National Park
Service, which took control of National Monuments. But without funds and
political interest, visitor infrastructure in the Monument remained
undeveloped for decades.

In 1948, state funds helped establish the Utah Field House of Natural
History in nearby Vernal. Then in 1957 that a public park exhibit was
created to showcase the Carnegie quarry itself—just as Douglass and Utah
residents had desired. Nearly 2,000 bones were exposed in place forming
an entire wall of the visitor center. Sadly, the building was closed in
2006 due to the serious safety hazards caused by an inadequate foundation.

In April of this year, the Park announced the award of $13.1 million in
stimulus funds to demolish and replace condemned portions of the Quarry
Visitor Center. Construction is anticipated to take between a year and a
year and a half; the reopening the quarry exhibit and visitor center could
be as early as summer 2011. Perhaps at last the quarry in Dinosaur
National Monument will have a memorial that is worthy of its remarkable,
ancient inhabitants.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.
Credits:

Images: Courtesy National Parks Service

Text: Holly Strand, Stokes Nature Center

Additional Reading:


Harvey, Mark W.T. 1991. Utah, The National Park Service, And Dinosaur
National Monument, 1909-56, Utah Historical Quarterly, Number 3 (Summer 1991) p. 243

National Park Service, US Dept of Interior. Dinosaur National Monument.
http://www.nps.gov/dino/index.htm [ Accessed September 2009]

Utah History Encyclopedia. 1994. Dinosaur National Monument. Edited by
Allan Kent Powell, former Public History Coordinator at the Utah State
Historical Society. https://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/d/DINOSAUR_NATIONAL_MONUMENT.shtml [Accessed September
2009]