John Muir and Wilderness

John Muir and Wilderness: John Muir at Glacier Bay Courtesy US NPS, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
John Muir at Glacier Bay
Courtesy US NPS, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

John Muir and Wilderness: Roosevelt and Muir at Glacier Point President Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir standing on rock at Glacier Point, Yosemite, May 1903; Yosemite Falls and cliffs of Yosemite Valley in distance. [RL012904] Courtesy US NPS Roosevelt and Muir at Glacier Point,
President Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir standing on rock at Glacier Point, Yosemite, May 1903; Yosemite Falls and cliffs of Yosemite Valley in distance.
Note: Muir visited Glacier Bay in Alaska and the Unita mountains in Utah to explore how glaciers formed Yosemite valley. [RL012904]
Courtesy US NPS

An aerial view of Margerie Glacier. The glacier begins high in the mountains and meanders down the valleys like a river of ice.  Courtesy US NPS, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve An aerial view of Margerie Glacier. The glacier begins high in the mountains and meanders down the valleys like a river of ice.
Courtesy US NPS, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

John Muir at Muir Glacier Courtesy US NPS, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve John Muir at Muir Glacier
Courtesy US NPS, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

I’ve known of John Muir much of my life. A recent kayaking trip to Glacier Bay in Alaska added to my appreciation for this remarkable early American naturalist, author, and Wilderness advocate. Muir first visited Glacier Bay in 1879, where he witnessed firsthand how glaciers transform the landscape, bolstering his prescient theory of glaciology. Upon returning home, I did a bit of research on his 1877 visit to Utah. Muir was taken by the wild beauty of the Wasatch Mountains as he so eloquently expressed.

“The glacial developments of these superb ranges are sharply sculptured peaks and rests, with ample wombs between them, where the ancient snows of the glacial period were collected and transformed into ice and ranks of profound shadowy canyons, while moraines commensurate with the lofty fountains extend into the valleys forming far the grandest series of glacial monuments I have yet seen this side of the Sierra.”

In addition to Muir’s contributions to understanding how glaciers sculpt landscapes, he used his political acumen to initiate the Wilderness movement, culminating with the 1964 Wilderness Act approved by the U.S. Congress. “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” – written by Howard Zahniser, the principle author of the Act.

The U.S. Congress has preserved 110 million acres of the fifty states since the Wilderness Act, 1.16 million of which are found in Utah. About half are on National Forest lands, the remaining residing with the Bureau of Land Management agency. Another 3.2 million acres are managed as Roadless lands titled Wilderness Study Areas.

Other Muir quotes which champion wilderness- “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” and “Wilderness is a necessity… there must be places for human beings to satisfy their souls.”

I’ve spent many years as a seasonal Wilderness ranger and Wilderness advocate here in N. Utah in the Naomi and Wellsville Wilderness. Managing these precious spaces to retain its wilderness character has become ever more challenging with a warmer, dryer climate enhancing wildfire, flooding, and loss to massive insect outbreaks. As Glacier Bay and Glacier National park glaciers retreat ever deeper into bays and meadows, their names may become a misnomer.

Although John Muir’s famous “Muir Glacier” had receded several miles away from where it once met the ocean, I feel blessed the few tidewater glaciers we encountered yet remain. And I feel further blessed that the U.S. Congress has seen fit to protect Utah’s wildlands by deploying the Wilderness Act- “…where the Earth and its Community of Life will remain untrammeled by man…”

Jack Greene for the Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m wild about Utah!

Credits:

Picture:
Audio: Courtesy & © J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin https://upr.org
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

Glacier Bay From Above(Video), John Hopkins Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, US National Park Service, https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=C16C2BB8-1DD8-B71C-0783F58C054561C2

Fields, Lauren, Here’s what John Muir — the father of national parks —thought about early Utah, The Deseret News, Apr 20, 2018, https://www.deseret.com/2018/4/21/20643789/here-s-what-john-muir-the-father-of-national-parks-thought-about-early-utah

John Muir in Utah, Utah Stories from the Beehive Archive, Utah Humanities, https://www.utahhumanities.org/stories/items/show/180

Public Law 88-577 a.k.a. Wilderness Act, Sept 3, 1964, U.S. Government Publishing Office: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/STATUTE-78/pdf/STATUTE-78-Pg890.pdf

Biek, Bob, Willis, & Ehler, Buck, Utah’s Glacial Geology, Survey Notes, Utah Geological Survey, Utah Department of Natural Resources, September 2010, https://geology.utah.gov/map-pub/survey-notes/utahs-glacial-geology/

Hansen, Wallace R, The Geologic Story of the Uinta Mountains, Geological Survey(USGS), US Department of the Interior, 1969, 1975, 1983, https://pubs.usgs.gov/bul/1291/report.pdf

Purple Wildflower Poetry

Purple Wildflower Poetry: Manti LaSal Majesty Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Manti LaSal Majesty
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Shooting Star Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Shooting Star
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Larkspur Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Larkspur
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Scorpionweed Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Scorpionweed
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

There are two lines in the patriotic hymn “America the Beautiful” that really sing to me. One is “Who more than self their country loved,” honoring history’s heroes, and the other I exclaim each time I stumble upon an alpine meadow in bloom. Decades ago my friend Amberly and I borrowed the phrase “purple mountain majesties” as we gazed at the larkspur dotting our way to Emerald Lake, and it has been a common exclamation for me ever since. The purple aster, bluebell, clover, monkshood, penstemon, and silvery lupine also complement the evergreens and azure skies in a way that takes my breath away, begging to be captured by camera, paint, and pen.

This fourth of July I compose this piece sitting not too far away from the Colorado mountain peak where Katharine Lee Bates sat in 1893 as she penned the first draft of her poetic “Oh beautiful for spacious skies” stanzas. She had traveled from her post teaching English at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, visiting Niagara Falls, Chicago’s Columbian Exposition, and Kansas grainfields on her first trip west to Colorado Springs, where she would be teaching a summer school session.

She and her fellow instructors took a “merry expedition” to an overlook on Pikes Peak and were immediately struck by the beauty. “It was then and there,” she wrote, “as I was looking out over the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies, that the opening lines of the hymn floated into my mind.”

Two years after setting the manuscript aside as busy writers often do, she revisited her notebook scribblings and published what she described as “a more literary and ornate” version than we now know it for that fourth of July. In a letter dated October 8, 1919, acquaintance Robert Frost wrote to Miss Bates his sentiment that “free rhythms are as disorderly as nature.” I will admit that most of my poems, Mr. Frost, do not follow strict rules of rhyme and meter like yours and Katharine’s do, but just the same I admire the higgledy-piggledy scorpionweed’s violet bottlebrush clusters and haphazardness of the larkspur petals standing before me.

Frost’s third poetry collection titled “Mountain Interval” inspires me to record the explosive colors of the wildflowers I see as I watch fireworks spatter and scatter against the silhouette of the Rockies, mimicking the shootingstar flowers with their purple petals swept backwards that punctuate the path. Bates wasn’t writing about wildflowers as much as she was the geologic wonders and expansive views from 14,000 feet, but I can feel poems emerging from both.

In Nancy Churnin’s picture book biography “For Spacious Skies,” Katharine Lee Bates says, “Most glorious scenery I ever beheld,” and each wildflower cascading lavender from its sparkler-wand stem molds the makings of other poems celebrating the majestic allure of this land.

I’m Shannon Rhodes, and I’m wild about Utah.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Additional Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections as well as J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin https://upr.org.
Text: Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Bates, Katharine Lee. ca. 1925. Falmouth Historical Society’s Museums on the Green. Massachusetts. https://museumsonthegreen.org/wp-content/uploads/Katharine-Lee-Bates-describes-how-she-wrote-America-The-Beautiful-after-1922-signed.pdf

Churnin, Nancy. 2020. For Spacious Skies: Katharine Lee Bates and the Inspiration for “America the Beautiful.” Park Ridge, Illinois: Albert Whitman and Company. https://www.nancychurnin.com/forspaciousskies, https://www.nancychurnin.com/thekidsareallwrite/2019/8/3/happy-birthday-wishes-for-katharine-lee-bates-poet-of-america-the-beautiful

Author, Nancy Churnin, reads her new book For Spacious Skies! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXyANvok7sE

Frost, Robert. 1919. Letter from Robert Frost, Amhurst, Massachusetts, to Katharine Lee Bates: autograph manuscript signed 1919, October 8. Wellesley College Digital Repository Special Collections. https://repository.wellesley.edu/object/wellesley31310

Frost, Robert. 1916. Mountain Interval. New York: Henry Holt and Company. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/29345/29345-h/29345-h.htm

Kratz, Andrew. Nuttall’s Larkspur. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/delphinium_nuttallianum.shtml

Flowers in the Aspen Groves, Rocky Mountains, Utah, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. ​​https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/beauty/aspen/flowers/utah.shtml

Ponder, Melinda M. 2017. Katharine Lee Bates: From Sea to Shining Sea. Chicago: Windy City Publishers. http://www.melindaponder.com/the-book.html

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. America the Beautiful: 1893: A Spotlight on a Primary Source by Katharine Lee Bates. https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-resources/spotlight-primary-source/america-beautiful-1893

Westervelt, Eric. 2019. Greatness Is Not a Given: America the Beautiful Asks How We Can Do Better. NPR’s American Anthem. https://www.npr.org/2019/04/04/709531017/america-the-beautiful-american-anthem

Hi there, I’m a monster

Yellow Garden Spider Argiope aurantia Courtesy US FWS, Willliam Powell, Photographer
Yellow Garden Spider
Argiope aurantia
Courtesy US FWS, Willliam Powell, Photographer

Daring Jumping Spider Phidippus audaxdaring Courtesy US FWS, Laurie Sheppard, Photographer Daring Jumping Spider
Phidippus audaxdaring
Courtesy US FWS, Laurie Sheppard, Photographer

I have a new spider roommate that I’ve decided to let stay. This is a bit of a development for me, though, since I’ve never been too keen on spiders, primarily because they’re spiders. They’re those strange land-lobsters that fall from the shower curtains, or appear behind a shelf; those horrid hairy hands that hole up in the bathroom sink to greet you in the groggy morning. “Hi there! I’m a monster!” they yell with delight. “Gahh! You sure are!” I yell back without it.

When I was growing up, I dealt with spiders according to the ‘all are bad’ fallacy. I was a spider killer I’m ashamed to say. I’d grab a wad of toilet paper, or a shoe, and send their bodies to the sewer or dump. As I grew older and learned more about them, however, I switched camps. I learned that they are just wee wolves who wait. They are not malicious or evil, even if some still take a deep breath to see. I then graduated to spider rehabilitator, and it’s where I am still rooted. I have a specific mason jar and slip of cardboard that I’ll catch the spider in, and then send them to the Oregon grapes beside my house. I find rehabilitation easier to cope with than believing that they are still all bad. I never liked killing. Once released, I know that they are actually happier back in their native habitat where they have an abundance of food and opportunity for spider hunting and other activities which behoove them. Maybe they’ll even get to eat or be eaten by an old flame.

But back to my new roommate. Our story begins a few weeks ago: I was brushing my teeth for the evening when I spotted them near the floor in the corner where my bathroom sink meets the wall. They were suspended in a wee web just living their life. About a quarter the size of a raisin, this little one was no threat I figured: they weren’t large enough to be seen as a scare, and, upon brief inspection, weren’t venomous. I decided to pass on an immediate capture and do it the next day or something. In their corner they stayed.

The next evening as I was again brushing my teeth, I was reminded that I would catch them as I saw them again. But today, this itsy spider was not alone: they had caught a hornet in their web and was gleefully doing with it that which spiders do. It surprised me though, that this small hunter in their own right was able to catch and turn a hornet at least ten times its size into leftovers. “Huh,” I thought, “Perhaps I’ll let you stay.” I like hornets less than spiders, and the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Since then, the bitsy spider in my bathroom has caught even more, and is really doing me a favor. They have snared another hornet, several flies, mosquitos, and other unidentified organisms which I only recognize as tiny Tutankhamuns. My spider roommate has helped me straddle my rehabilitation camp with a new one: teamwork.

Now, while I still do catch other spiders and critters which find their way into my house, I’m allowing the roommate to stay, at least for now. I know there will be a day when my fiancé finally notices them and asks for them to go, but that day is not yet. Until then, I’ll continue to marvel at how my roommate, this eight-legged ecology major, takes on challenges that to us would seem plain mad. If you saw a hornet the size of a Kodiak brown bear, would you even contemplate catching it let alone eating it? That takes some gumption to not back down. I can admire that. So for now, we’ll keep working together, at least until hornet season is over. Then it’ll likely be to the Oregon grapes with you to find that old flame.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:
Images: Courtesy US FWS, images.fws.gov
Audio: Courtesy & ©
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, https://www.logannature.org/

Spiders North America (Spider Identification), InsectIdentification.org, https://www.insectidentification.org/spiders.php

The Great Salt Lake: Important for Birds

Decreasing water levels in the southern arm of the Great Salt Lake expose microbialite communities that are normally underwater. Courtesy USGS, Hannah McIlwain, Photographer
Decreasing water levels in the southern arm of the Great Salt Lake expose microbialite communities that are normally underwater.
Courtesy USGS, Hannah McIlwain, Photographer
I first met the Great Salt Lake in 1964 with two Central Michigan University college buddies on our way to Los Angeles. We heard you could float in its magical waters. Sure enough- it worked and we bobbed in its gentle waves oblivious to the many other virtues of this extraordinary water body.

This saltwater marvel is the largest wetland area in the American West. Its 400,000 acres of wetlands provide habitat for over 230 bird species traveling from the tip of South America, north to Canada’s Northwest Territories and as far west as Siberia. These wetlands and surrounding mudflats are vital habitat for 8-10 million individual migratory birds with many species gathering at the Lake in larger populations than anywhere else on the planet.

In 1991 the Great Salt Lake was declared a site of “hemispheric importance,” the highest level of designation given to a site by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. The Reserve conserves shorebird habitat through a network of key sites across the Americas. Salt Lake receives the largest percentage of the world’s population of migrating Eared Grebes, nearly one-third of Wilson’s Phalaropes, more than half of American Avocets, and 37 percent of Black-necked Stilts. The lake’s shoreline, playas and mudflats also support 21 percent of the North American breeding population of Snowy Plovers, a species identified as one of greatest conservation needs by Utah’s Wildlife Action Plan.

These shorebirds are among nature’s most ambitious, long-distance migrants. But their numbers are dropping quickly. Shorebirds are showing the most dramatic declines among all bird groups. Species that undertake hemispheric migrations rely on specific habitats and food sources to survive, but these resources are increasingly under threat from human disturbance including habitat loss and degradation, over-harvesting, increasing predation, and climate change. As humans have continued to alter the landscape, shorebird populations continue to drop, with accelerated declines in recent decades.

Of 52 shorebird species that regularly breed in North America, 90% are predicted to experience an increase in risk of extinction. This includes 28 species already considered at high risk, and 10 imperiled species that face even greater risk.

At the base of Salt Lake’s food chain are microbialites, underwater reef-like rock mounds created by millions of microbes. These structures and their microbial mats form the base of the entire Great Salt Lake ecosystem, serving as a primary food source for brine shrimp and brine flies, which are the main food source for these aquatic birds. Falling water levels exposing the microbialites to air could trigger a collapse in the lake’s food chain according to a July study by the Utah Geological Survey.

So we humans aren’t the only one’s suffering from our disappearing Lake. Thank goodness we have awakened to this extraordinary resource found on our doorstep with many organizations and agencies attempting to save what remains for our health, wealth, and for the millions of threatened feathered friends that grace our skies, and our lives. Last May, Utah Governor Cox declared 2021 the year honoring shorebirds. We can do our part by taking action on conserving water and energy.

Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society and I’m wild about Utah and its magnificent great lake.

Credits:

Picture:
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

Strand, Holly, Important Bird Areas, Wild About Utah, October 21, 2008, https://wildaboututah.org/important-bird-areas/

Strand, Holly, One of the World’s Largest Shrimp Buffets, Wild About Utah, June 3, 2008, https://wildaboututah.org/one-of-the-worlds-largest-shrimp-buffets/

Chambless, Ross, When the Great Salt Lake we know is gone, what shall we name it?, Commentary, The Salt Lake Tribune, August 19, 2021, https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2021/08/19/ross-chambless-when-great/ [Accessed September 19, 2021]

Shorebirds are among nature’s most ambitious, long-distance migrants. Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN), https://whsrn.org/about-shorebirds/shorebird-status/

Drought Negatively Impacting Great Salt Lake Microbialites and Ecosystem, Utah Geological Survey (UGS), Utah Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah, July 15, 2021, https://geology.utah.gov/drought-negatively-impacting-great-salt-lake-microbialites-and-ecosystem/

Chidsey, T.C., Jr., Eby, D.E., Vanden Berg, M.D., and Sprinkel, D.A., 2021, Microbial carbonate reservoirs and analogs
from Utah: Utah Geological Survey Special Study 168, 112 p., 14 plates, 1 appendix, https://doi.org/10.34191/SS-168

Riding, Robert, Definition: Microbialites, Stromatolites, and Thrombolites, Encyclopedia of Geobiology, SpringerLink, Springer Nature Switzerland AG. Part of Springer Nature., https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-1-4020-9212-1_196

Romero, Simon, Booming Utah’s Weak Link: Surging Air Pollution, The New York Times, Sept. 7, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/07/us/great-salt-lake-utah-air-quality.html

2015–2025 Wildlife Action Plan, Division of Wildlife Resources, Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah, July 1 2015, https://wildlife.utah.gov/discover/wildlife-action-plan.html

Governor Cox Declares 2021 as Year of the Shorebird at Great Salt Lake, Declaration celebrates 30th anniversary of Great Salt Lake as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Site, Western Water News, National Audubon, May 12, 2021, https://www.audubon.org/news/governor-cox-declares-2021-year-shorebird-great-salt-lake
See also: https://wildlife.utah.gov/news/utah-wildlife-news/1182-cox-declares-2021-year-of-shorebird-great-salt-lake.html

Gov. Cox Issues Drought Executive Order, Governor.utah.gov, March 17, 2021, https://governor.utah.gov/2021/03/17/gov-cox-issues-drought-executive-order/


Written by Hall Crimmel & Dan Bedford, Filmed and Edited by Isaac Goeckeritz, iUtah EPSCor, Rachel Carsen Center Environment & Society,
Based on the book Desert Water; The Future of Utah’s Water Resources edited by Hall Crimmel and published by University of Utah Press, 2014

Carney, Stephanie, Vanden Berg, Michael D., GeoSights: Microbialites of Bridger Bay, Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Survey Notes, Utah Geological Survey, State of Utah, January 1, 2022, https://geology.utah.gov/map-pub/survey-notes/geosights/geosights-microbialites-of-bridger-bay-antelope-island-great-salt-lake/

Salt Lake Brine Shrimp, https://saltlakebrineshrimp.com/harvest/