The Henry Mountain Bison

American Bison Courtesy US FWS Ryan Moehring, Photographer
American Bison
Courtesy US FWS
Ryan Moehring, Photographer
The Henry Mountains of southeast Utah are famous for being the last mountain range in the contiguous United States to have been officially mapped. Indeed, before they were mapped, they were often referred to as the “Unknown Mountains.” Another relative unknown detail about this range is that it harbors one of only five genetically pure, free roaming bison herds on North American public lands.

In 1941, a seed herd of 18 American Plains Bison (B. b. bison) were transplanted from Yellowstone National Park to the arid desert of Utah’s Robbers Roost. A year later, five more bulls were introduced to the herd in hopes of sufficiently diversifying the gene pool and sustaining the herd. The bison must not have found Robbers Roost as appealing as Butch Cassidy had, though, because this new Wild Bunch set out for literal greener pastures that very same year.

The small herd forded the Dirty Devil River and travelled southwest toward the Burr Desert. The herd stopped here for a while, enjoying their newfound buffet atop the Aquarius Plateau. 21 years later, though, in 1963, the still small herd grew tired of the desert and abandoned it altogether for the higher, more verdant snow fed meadows of the nearby Henry Mountains. Here, the herd thrived and quickly swelled in numbers.

Today, the herd’s population is estimated to be between 300 and 400 animals, which ecologists and wildlife biologists regard as the maximum carrying capacity of their Henry Mountain range. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has responded accordingly. In an effort to perpetuate the health of the herd and their range, the DWR began issuing “Once-in-a-lifetime” permits to hunters hoping to fulfill not only a tag but also a burning sense of adventure. The Henry Mountains, after all, were mapped last for a reason. They remain one of the most rugged and remote places in a state known for its rugged and remote places.

Fittingly, quite unlike their more quintessential Plains Bison brethren, the Henry Mountains bison can be found almost anywhere in the Henrys between the desert lowlands and timberline. Apparently no one has told the herd that Plains Bison don’t typically like high elevations or steep mountain slopes. This unique proclivity of the Henry Mountains herd to cast off behavioral stereotypes works in their favor when hunting season rolls around and they abandon the high, open meadows for steep, wooded canyons and thick groves of aspen and evergreens.

This highly adaptive nature unique to the Henry Mountains herd made it an obvious candidate to serve as a seed population in early 2010 when 39 individuals were transplanted from the Henry Mountains to the Book Cliffs along the Utah-Colorado border. These 39 animals were to serve as a genetic supplement to a relatively new herd first reintroduced to the Book Cliffs by the Ute Indian Tribe in 1986. The now 600-strong Book Cliffs herd is well on its way to reestablishing the American Plains Bison’s historic range in the Book Cliffs.

The story of the Book Cliffs and Henry Mountains Bison give us reason to hope that one day soon, the American Bison might reclaim its territory, a historic range that once ran from Alaska through the Canadian territories and the Great Plains to the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico. And, if so, the role the Henry Mountains herd will play in that expansion may be a significant one.

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

Credits:

Photos: Courtesy US FWS, Ryan Moehring, Photographer
Audio: Includes audio from
Text: Josh Boling, 2019

Sources & Additional Reading

Utah’s Book Cliffs Herd, Bison Bellows Series, National Park Service, June 30, 2016, https://www.nps.gov/articles/bison-bellows-6-30-16.htm

How scientists brought bison back to Banff, National Public Radio, Feb 28, 2017, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/scientists-brought-bison-back-banff

Buffalo (Bison) on the Henry Mountains, Capitol Reef Country, Wayne County Tourism, https://capitolreef.org/blog/buffalo-bison-on-the-henry-mountains/

Henry Mountains, Utah.com, https://utah.com/henry-mountains

Bison Unit Management Plan, Unit #15 Henry Mountains, Utah Division of Wildlife Management, https://wildlife.utah.gov/hunting/biggame/pdf/bison_15.pdf

Gilman, Don, Rare, genetically-pure bison found in Utah’s Henry Mountains, St George News, Jan 12, 2016, https://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2016/01/12/djg-genetically-pure-bison-found-in-utahs-henry-mountains/#.XB7nRs9KjfY

Henry Mountain Outfitters, HuntersTrailhead, http://www.hunterstrailhead.com/index.php?ID=147

Brian, Jayden, Utah Henry Mountain Bison Hunts, Bull Mountain Outfitters, LLC, http://henrymtnbisonhunts.com/

Henry Mountains bison herd, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Mountains_bison_herd

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.

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/

Ron’s Pieces on Wild About Utah:

2019

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]