A Tale of Green Inspirations

Green River Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Green River
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Leopard Frog, Lithobates pipiens Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Leopard Frog, Lithobates pipiens
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Wolf Lichen, Letharia vulpina Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Wolf Lichen, Letharia vulpina
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

In one of my first childhood books I met a washerwoman hedgehog named Mrs. Tiggy-winkle who lived on a hilltop higher than the clouds that had a spring, peculiar rocks, and mysterious footmarks. Its author had studied and recorded both in words and watercolor detail in her sketchbooks everything from bird eggs and bees to caterpillars and cornflowers to water lilies and Flopsy Mopsy rabbits with naturalist precision.

What if children’s book author Beatrix Potter would have known Utah the way she captured interesting elements of places she visited while on her family holiday outings in the English Lake District, North Wales, and Scotland? I wonder how her mind might have played with our minty Green River, sometimes in Utah’s history known by the names Rio Verde and Seedskeedee. What would she have done with its Gates of Lodore or Desolation Canyon?

Green. Everywhere I look outside I see green. Perhaps that is why green is my favorite color. Nothing stops me in my tracks like chartreuse wolf lichen clinging to the bark of conifer trunks. What stories would Potter spin with that had she wandered through Utah’s forests? It is said that her favorite organism was actually fungi like the Amanita gemmata or jeweled deathcap, so much so that her naked-eye and microscope-enhanced renderings led her to compose an essay about spore germination for the Linnean Society in 1897.

The world knows her best for her Peter Rabbit tale, yet because she was such an observant nature artist, spinning fantastical stories about creatures in the wild and pairing them with companion pencil and watercolor illustrations begs little of the reader in the way of imagination.

Few may know her, though, for her beautiful nature journals. Her entry of a painted lady butterfly, zooming in specifically on the wing scales, or magnified studies of a ground beetle’s leg and elytra reveal hours she spent noticing. I marvel at how long it must have taken her to know amphibian structures and behaviors to craft a tale with such specificity. In “The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher,” she portrays a frog punting like on the River Cam, fishing, and nibbling butterfly sandwiches. She draws him dipping his foot in the pond, swimming, and leaping across the meadow in his tattered macintosh. What would she have imagined the Northern Leopard frog thinking as it zigzagged through my lawn last summer? Why did it have to come from the far-away canal across concrete and road to my home before I noticed its distinctive snoring and clicking croak or learned to appreciate its tenacity?

Potter found equal perfection in “the highest and the lowest in nature,” aware and eager to capture it all with imagination and detail. As our world greens this spring, I hope we take time to sit and sketch the wonders, even if we don’t have the courage to eat “roasted grasshopper with lady-bird sauce.”

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

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Additional Audio: Courtesy & ©
Text: Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Wild About Utah Posts by Shannon Rhodes https://wildaboututah.org/author/shannon-rhodes/

Drost, Charles. Status of Northern Leopard Frogs in the Southwest. December 15, 2016. https://www.usgs.gov/centers/southwest-biological-science-center/science/status-northern-leopard-frogs-southwest

Larese-Casanova, Mark. The Call of Springtime: Utah’s Frogs and Toads. March 22, 2012. https://wildaboututah.org/the-call-of-springtime-utahs-frogs-and-toads/

Lear, Linda. About Beatrix Potter. 2011. The Beatrix Potter Society. https://beatrixpottersociety.org.uk/about-beatrix/

National Park Service. Northern Leopard Frog. https://www.nps.gov/articles/northern-leopard-frog.htm

Northern Leopard Frogs. Biokids’ Inquiry of Diverse Species. https://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Lithobates_pipiens/

Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher. 1906. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/15077/15077-h/15077-h.htm

Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle. 1905. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/15137/15137-h/15137-h.htm

Strand, Holly. Last Blank Spots on the Map. October 29, 2009. https://wildaboututah.org/last-blank-spots-on-the-map/

Thomson, Keith. Beatrix Potter, Conservationist. May-June 2007. https://www.americanscientist.org/article/beatrix-potter-conservationist

Beatrix Potter, Author and Conservationist, Born (1866), Day by Day in Conservation History, Today in Conservation, July 28, 2017, https://todayinconservation.com/2020/04/july-28-beatrix-potter-author-and-conservationist-born-1866/

U.S Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Lichens. https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/beauty/lichens/didyouknow.shtml

Victoria and Albert Museum. Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature. 2022. https://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/beatrix-potter

Webb, Roy. Green River. Utah History Encyclopedia. 1994. https://historytogo.utah.gov/green-river/

Wilkinson, Todd. Utah Ushers Its Frogs Toward Oblivion. High Country News. May 27, 1996. https://www.hcn.org/issues/60/1858

Woolley, Ralf R. The Green River and Its Utilization. United States Department of the Interior. 1930. https://pubs.usgs.gov/wsp/0618/report.pdf

The Colorado River Compact, Saving Water for Utah

Colorado Compact Coverage, Courtesy AZwater.gov, https://www.azwater.gov/AzDWR/StatewidePlanning/CRM/images/map_main_large.jpg
Colorado Compact Coverage
https://www.azwater.gov/AzDWR/StatewidePlanning/CRM/images/map_main_large.jpg [Feb 27, 2014]
Courtesy AZwater.gov

The Colorado River Compact, Saving Water for Utah: Hoover Dam Courtesy USBR Hoover Dam
Courtesy USBR

Hi, this is Mark Larese-Casanova from the Utah Master Naturalist Program at Utah State University Extension.

The Colorado River Compact, written into law almost a century ago, helped ensure our survival in Utah today. We all know that Utah is a dry state. In fact, Utah is the second driest state in the country, with only Nevada being drier. Our average annual precipitation varies widely, from as low as a few inches a year near St. George, to as high as 60 inches in the mountains. Since most of our water comes from mountain snow, we rely on rivers and streams to deliver it to us.

The Colorado and Green Rivers, the largest in Utah, carry water from the Rocky, Wasatch, and Uinta Mountain ranges throughout Utah and the Intermountain West. The Colorado River Basin, the area of land from which the Colorado River and its tributaries drain water, covers the eastern half of Utah, along with the western half of Colorado, almost all of Arizona, and small parts of Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada, and California. Each of these states has a dry climate, and water from the Colorado has always been in high demand.

In the heavily populated eastern United States, the right to use water often adheres to Riparian Doctrine in which water is shared by all those who live along the body of water. However, the western US was settled at different times, and populations are more sparse. So, water rights generally follow the doctrine of Prior Appropriation. That is, the water is set aside for whoever is able to use it first. The only problem is that California was developed earlier than the other states in the basin, and therefore, as the US Supreme Court ruled in 1922, was legally entitled to more than their fair share of the water! In this case, western water law simply didn’t work. So, all 7 states in the Colorado River Basin sat down together with the US Government and negotiated the Colorado River Compact to ensure that Utah and the other Upper Basin states were entitled to as much water each year as California and the other Lower Basin states that were growing at a faster rate.

So there you have it- one key piece of legislation helping to save civilization in Utah. Except, well, the amounts of water each state is entitled to was based on an abnormally high year of water flow… and, so, there often isn’t enough water to go around… and Mexico doesn’t seem to get much water at all. OK, so the Colorado River Compact isn’t perfect, but it’s important. To ensure that we all truly have enough water, it will take compromise, conservation, and a whole lot of common sense.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Mark Larese-Casanova.


Images: Courtesy AZwater.gov
Text:     Mark Larese-Casanova

Additional Reading:

Gelt, J. Sharing Colorado River Water: History, Public Policy and the Colorado River Compact. Water Resources Research Center. https://wrrc.arizona.edu/publications/arroyo-newsletter/sharing-colorado-river-water-history-public-policy-and-colorado-river

US Bureau of Reclamation. The Colorado River Compact. https://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/pao/pdfiles/crcompct.pdf

US Bureau of Reclamation. The Law of the River. https://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/pao/lawofrvr.html

Law of the River, Colorado River Management, State of Arizona, https://new.azwater.gov/crm/law-river

Water Education Foundation. 1922-2007: 85 Years of the Colorado River Compact. https://www.watereducation.org/western-water-excerpt/1922-2007-85-years-colorado-river-compact

James, Ian, Scientists have long warned of a Colorado River crisis, The Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-15/scientists-have-long-warned-of-a-colorado-river-crisis