25th Anniversary Nutshell History of the Founding of the Stokes Nature Center

25th Anniversary Nutshell History of the Founding of the Stokes Nature Center, 1997 Stokes Nature Center Logo Courtesy & Copyright Kayo Robertson, Illustrator

1997 Stokes Nature Center Logo Courtesy & Copyright Kayo Robertson, Illustrator25th Anniversary Nutshell History of the Founding of the Stokes Nature Center
“This logo was chosen because the Dipper was Al Stoke’s favorite bird. There used to be an active nest beneath the old bridge by the Nature center. As we all know the sweet, early March, water-flowing song of the Dipper lifts winter-weary hearts with its spirited promise of coming spring.” — Kayo

Stokes Nature Center Courtesy & Copyright Jack Greene, Photographer

Stokes Nature Center, Logan Canyon
Courtesy & Copyright Jack Greene, Photographer

Allen & Alice Stokes Courtesy Jack Greene

Allen & Alice Stokes
Courtesy Jack Greene

In the fall of 1995, having already successfully envisioned and fostered the establishment of the Ogden Nature Center, and undaunted by multiple false-starts, Bridgerland Audubon Society Trustee and Education Chair Jack Greene launched a final successful round of appeals to establish a nature center in Logan Canyon. The first step of partnering with the First Presbyterian Church helped in securing a U.S. Forest Service conditional use permit to rehabilitate the disused Logan Canyon facility of the Cache Valley Council of Boy Scouts.25th Anniversary Nutshell History of the Founding of the Stokes Nature Center
The second step of forming the founding board of trustees of the Logan Canyon Nature Center with representatives from both Bridgerland Audubon and First Presbyterian, led to the election of Jack as president, and, importantly, to the writing of the business plan for an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Successive Bridgerland Audubon Society presidents Brigit Burke, Robert Schmidt, and Bryan Dixon tackled the arduous task of raising over $100,000 in funds, soliciting over $55,000 in donated building supplies, and wrangling over 200 volunteers for over 5,000 hours of perilous and thoroughly unglamorous labor of blood, sweat and tears to transmogrify a dilapidated and vandalized seventy-year-old American Legion building into a 20th century nature center. A standout in this community effort is biologist Glen Gantz, who donated over 1,500 hours serving as the general contractor, coordinating the work and finding subcontractors. Local educator, writer, and artist Kayo Robertson designed the logo featuring the American Dipper, Al Stokes’ favorite bird. Peggy Linn of the U.S. Forest Service was a key player, and fundraisers including Mae Coover, Terry Barnes, Wendy Gaddis, and Jacqueline Henney, and generous donors including Sally Sears, Randy Wirth, Nate Hult, Campbell Scientific, Thompson Electric, and Cache Valley Electric, ensured success.

Two years later, on November 1, 1997, the Logan Canyon Nature Center was dedicated to Bridgerland Audubon Society founders Allen and Alice Stokes, pillars of the local environmental conservation community. Al had been Aldo Leopold’s student and Alice had been Aldo’s personal secretary, so it is fitting that the Stokes Nature Center embodies the Leopold Land Ethic of caring about people, land, and the ecological conscience which binds the two when connecting people to opportunity. Twenty-five years later the mission of the Stokes Nature Center “To provide nature education and promote outdoor exploration of our natural world” is thriving, the vision is shining as “People of all ages appreciate and are stewards of our natural world,” and Al’s American Dippers are still dipping in the Logan River.

Twenty-five years later Jack Greene still serves as a docent and leads bird walks and nature programs, and the community continues to support this beacon for connecting people to nature through the study of the ecology of the land. Here’s looking forward to the next quarter century of strengthening community bonds through collaborations for nature exploration and appreciation!

I’m Hilary Shughart with the Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I am Wild About Utah!

Images: 1997 Stokes Nature Center Logo Courtesy & Copyright Kayo Robertson, Illustrator
Early Stokes Nature Center, Courtesy & Copyright Jack Greene, Photographer
Allen & Alice Stokes, Courtesy Jack Greene
Featured Audio: Courtesy & © Anderson, Howe and Wakeman and Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Hilary Shughart, President, Bridgerland Audubon Society
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart and Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

WildAboutUtah pieces by Hilary Shughart, https://wildaboututah.org/author/hilary-shughart/

Strand, Holly, The Stokes Legacy, Wild About Utah, March 31, 2009,

Links of Note:
Allen and Alice Stokes Nature Center
Bridgerland Audubon Society
First Presbyterian Church of Logan
Cache Valley Electric
Campbell Scientific
Thompson Electric

Stokes Nature Center, Bridgerland Audubon Society, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/our-projects/stokes-nature-center/

Stokes Nature Center, Logan, UT, Website & Facebook Links:

Also note that Wild About Utah was organized in 2008 as a joint project with Utah Public Radio by the Bridgerland Audubon Society and the Stokes Nature Center.

You and I and the Winged Things

You and I and the Winged Things: Late Autumn Evening Courtesy & Copyright Friend Weller
Late Autumn Evening
Courtesy & Copyright Friend Weller
One of the greatest magics of these late autumn evenings is that of midges, gnats, flies, mosquitoes, and bugs which flitter about in the humble stratosphere of their world between the intermittent cold snaps. They loop and spiral, as if on spiritual roller coasters, gently refracting the setting sun through and upon their bodies so that they seem to glow and become prescient of the night’s stars soon to bloom. When the cool November sun begins to set low, I can look out amongst the naked shrubs and thinning trees, the tall shaggy grasses and dead kaleidoscopic leaves, and see those hidden creatures who only dance in unlovely places the splendid slow waltz of autumnal joy.

Through the cascading shadow, the dance of the waning wing-bearers becomes even more dramatic. As the sun continues to slide below the mountains, the insects increase their pace it seems, and then begins the cataclysm of the birds. Small gray and off-gray birds with different flecks, inflections, songs, and hearts, though unified as the kind that would easily build a good hardy nest in an old dilapidated mug, begin diving through the midges and gnats and flies and mosquitoes. The birds are trapeze artists. Starting from a perch in a nearby tree, they swoop with grace through the air in a dramatic arc. At the nadir of their swing, the snare roll abruptly halts, a sharp inhale of silence descends like thunder and is followed in quicktime by a cymbal crash as the acrobats catch their purse in midair. Then, gently arching back up to the adjacent branch across, a great applause raptures. Like this, the birds dive and breach, avian orcas earning their rich protein in preparation for the imminent changing of the season. The horizon of thin times drives the orchestra of life onwards.

As I watch the fading insects, bugs, winged things, and other wonders I ponder as to why many see them as pests. In the evening glow, it seems an impossible identity for these fellow inhabitants of our world. Do people fear them? Not understand them? Believe they belong in one place and not another? Watching them in that moment, the thought escapes my mind and I am glad. I am glad to forget their supposedly assigned state, and I instead reforge my memories anew in the present, watching them as sparks in the swiftly quenching day. The perpetual creation of the world continues along, with I and you and all we’ve ever known and will know wrapped within it.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
Images: Courtesy & © Friend Weller https://upr.org/
Audio: Courtesy & © J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin https://upr.org/
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

Top 20 Identified Insects, Utah Plant Pest Diagnostic Lab, Extension, Utah State University, https://extension.usu.edu/pests/uppdl/top-20-insects

Journey of the Potato

Journey of the Potato: Potato Harvest Courtesy & Copyright Eli Lucero, Photo Editor The Herald Journal, Logan Utah
Potato Harvest
Courtesy & Copyright Eli Lucero, Photo Editor
The Herald Journal, Logan Utah

Potato Museum: Potatoes Courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Potatoes
Courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

When I walked into the Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho, the first thing that caught my eye was a drawing of a farmer in the High Andes of Peru working the ground with a foot harrow. This is exactly what the Spanish Conquistadors saw when they marched into the area in the 1500’s looking for gold.
What they found instead was the potato. The Spaniards took the potato back to Europe, from where it eventually made its way to North America in the 1600’s. As for Utah, Brigham Young bought the potato here. Richard Jensen, writing for Utah’s LDS historical Society, tells us: “About noon, on July 24, the five acre potato patch was plowed when the brethren commenced planting their seed potatoes. The first irrigation in Salt Lake Valley was for the benefit of the newly planted potatoes.”

What Brigham Young didn’t know was that a small wild cousin of the domesticated potato was already here. In 2017 an anthropologist, Lizbeth Lauderback, was able to dig out the tiny bits of organic matter wedged into the stone grinding tools used by the Native Americans near Escalante. The organic bits proved to be potato starches. The stone tools were 10,000 years old.

But now the domesticated potato took over the field. The hefty Idaho Russet caught the eye of the McDonald food chain. They produced a fascinating video for the museum from inside their factory where the peeled potatoes were dropped in a fast moving water slide, accelerating to 50, 60 miles per hour. And BAM, they hit the slicer and came out the other side as slender, shapely strips now well on their way to becoming fries.

Back in Cache Valley, I was lucky enough to get invited to the Beutler Farm in Dayton to watch the potato harvest. Out in the field a giant harvester was forging ahead, scooping potatoes off the ground, bouncing them onto conveyor belts, and then sending them tumbling out a side chute into the bed of a potato truck keeping step alongside. Just as the truck filled to capacity, another truck sidled up behind and matched its pace with the giant machine.

The whole scene reminded me of the more formal dances in my high school, where couples would glide around the dance floor until another boy would sidle up behind the dancing boy, tap him on the shoulder, and take his place.

Keeping the rhythm of the dance of the potato trucks was the somewhat urgent beat of a ticking clock–potatoes still in the fields after a freeze would be ruined.

Falling in behind a departing truck, I was led to the above ground storage cellar where the potatoes were being piled into a massive wall that towered over my head. The wall was 22 foot high., and the potatoes kept coming. When the cellar was finally full, the doors were closed, the temperature and humidity controls set, and 8 million pounds of seed potatoes were left to wait out the winter at a cool 38 degrees.

The trucks moved on to filling the next cellar.

I was left standing there, marveling at just how many potatoes there were, wanting to sing the praises of all growing things, especially this farm’s successful mix of seed and sweat, of soil, of sun, of rain.

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah.

Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio upr.org
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Wild About Utah Postings

Idaho Potato Museum, https://idahopotatomuseum.com/

First use of wild potato in N. America Four Corners potato previously unknown part of ancient human diet, University of Utah, July 3, 2017, https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/274/Bamberg%20Press/Four_Corners.pdf and Morning Ag Clips, https://www.morningagclips.com/first-use-of-a-wild-potato-in-n-america/

Eating a potato with 11,000 years of cultural history, Includes photos by BJ Nicholls, Imagine, The University of Utah, Spring 2021, https://magazine.utah.edu/issues/spring-2020/ancient-spuds/

Davis, James W. and Stillwell, Nikki Batch, Aristocrat in Burlap, A History of the Potato in Idaho, Idaho Potato Commission, December 1992, https://idahopotato.com/aristocrat-in-burlap/online/8

Harwell, William S. and Collier, Fred C., Manuscript History of Brigham Young 1847–1850, Collier’s Publishing Co., Jan 1, 1997https://books.google.com/books?id=u33Szoj3pFQC&pg=PA61&lpg=PA61#v=onepage&q&f=false
and https://www.amazon.com/Manuscript-History-Brigham-Young-1847-1850/dp/0934964041/

O’Connell, John, Idaho potato industry sees good signs for profitable fall crop, Intermountain Farm & Ranch, Post Register (Idaho Falls, ID), Jul 29, 2019, https://www.postregister.com/farmandranch/crops/potatoes/idaho-potato-industry-sees-good-signs-for-profitable-fall-crop/article_e9d4a968-96df-5bf5-9e53-ba6df41c5947.html

Flandro, Carly, From the classroom to the spud cellar: harvest break teaches life lessons, EastIdahoNews.com, September 22, 2022, https://www.eastidahonews.com/2022/09/from-the-classroom-to-the-spud-cellar-harvest-break-teaches-life-lessons/

Intelligent Tree Squirrels

Intelligent Squirrels: Squirrel Courtesy Pixabay
Courtesy Pixabay
Primates of the northlands. I consider tree squirrels to be on par with many primates for intelligence and agility. Those who have bird feeders may agree with me as they vainly attempt to thwart squirrel’s from invading their feeders. We have red squirrels visiting our bird feeder regularly. I’ve outsmarted them for the moment, but they continue to work on the problem I’ve presented them and feel a failure coming my way!

I’ve watched red squirrels manipulate fir cones with their front paws with amazing dexterity. Like myself eating a cob of corn, it spun the cone rapidly while shredding the cone scales to access the seed. Their tiny toes grip the cone identically to my fingers gripping the cob of corn. I’m amazed how they can unerringly navigate their way from tree to tree through our forest. There are many examples of squirrel intelligence witnessed by animal behaviorists.

Arboreal squirrels often build dreys that look like bird nests. Dreys are made up of twigs , moss, feathers and grass. All the items surrounding the dreys provide support and insulation. Chimpanzees exhibit very similar behavior.

Squirrels make use of several vocalizations to communicate with each other, they also create scents to attract opposite sex or communicate. They can create signals with their tails as well, by twitching it to alert other squirrels on the presence of a potential danger.

Tree squirrels display fantastically acrobatic movements, phenomenal adaptability to urban environments, and possess very cute little faces to boot. The 7th International Colloquium on Arboreal Squirrels was held 2018 in Helsinki, Finland. Studies routinely come discover new, amazing behaviors, especially involving the squirrel’s signature behavior, that it buries caches of its food to access later. One experiment found that they’ll try multiple tactics to open a locked box. Another found that squirrels remember the location of their caches without using their keen noses to locate them. Another found that they’re able to quickly learn from their peers.

A 2010 study found that squirrels actually engage in deceptive, or paranoid, behavior. When squirrels are being watched, they’ll construct fake caches, pretending to bury a nut by digging a hole, patting it down with their front teeth, and scraping dirt or grass over the top of it while concealing the nut in a pocket near their armpit, and will make the real cache somewhere else. Even while watching, it can be difficult to tell when a squirrel is making a fake or a real cache. How smart is that?

A study was conducted at UC Berkley in which students were placed in a competitive game to act like squirrels. They hid caches of plastic eggs, and then 15 minutes later returned to find them. This is a very squirrel-like test: memory, deception, location, observation, paranoia. Most students couldn’t remember their own hiding places. Squirrels bury about 10,000 nuts per year, making many different caches, and may not uncover them for months. They may dig up a cache and bury it somewhere else, and do that up to five times. Squirrels, unlike UC Berkeley students, are engaged in this intellectually draining activity while also avoiding predators and braving the elements.

This is Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon. I’m Wild About Utah and its amazing squirrels!


Picture: Courtesy Pixabay, Alexas Fotos, Photographer, https://pixabay.com/photos/squirrel-rodent-animal-cute-nature-5158715/
Audio: Courtesy UPR
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/

Utah Fox Squirrels, NHMU is studying Fox Squirrels, and we need your help!, Natural History Museum of Utah, https://nhmu.utah.edu/citizen-science/utah-fox-squirrels

Types of Squirrels in Utah! (3 species w/ pictures), Bird Watching HQ, https://birdwatchinghq.com/squirrels-in-utah/