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Green Canyon—Residents learn something new about their own back yard

February 12th, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

By Jess Allen

NORTH LOGAN—It has its history, it has recovered from a brutal past, and it keeps thriving and coming back, revealing its secrets to those who dig into the landscape.

Green Canyon, which extends from North Logan into the Bear River Range, was the topic of community discussion this week at the North Logan Library, as USU history professor Chris Conte and his students presented their findings about the canyon’s life.

“I’ve only lived here 15 years, I know it’s not a long time,” Conte said, “but I’ve been around a while and much of that time I’ve spent walking around my community and also Green Canyon.”

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Conte and his students studied the canyon last fall to discover its past and learn lessons to protect and preserve it in the future. The students summarized what they had unearthed about the canyon in a presentation broken up into six segments, accompanied by images of the canyon over time.

Conte said what prompted the project was his own curiosity and fascination with Green Canyon and wanting to learn more about the landscape.

“I have studied the history of landscapes in Africa, a very distant place, but as I walked the Green Canyon my curiosity has been piqued over the years of just what the history of this canyon is,” he said. “My perspective is on the history of the canyon as a landscape, as a place that was created through collaboration of human and natural history. “

Human history is written on the landscape of Green Canyon, he said. The project goal was to read that history.

Student presenters focused on the geography of Green Canyon, showing aerial photography from 1985 to 2009 taken at the same time each year. The images indicate that the canyon is now the healthiest it has been in years.

“As our results came out, we found that after the 25 years had gone by the canyon was looking much healthier, much greener, much better than it in 1985 and especially 1990,” said student Tyler Allen.

The maps also showed the health of the plant life and how vegetation had fluctuated and changed over time, as well as how Green Canyon once was not a dry canyon, as it is today.

Another group went over the canyon’s natural history and discussed how Lake Bonneville, which once covered the entire region with water, and the Pleistocene era, 12,000 years ago, shaped the canyon.

Covering the ice age to today, the group discussed how the mountains were created and how conifers are replacing aspens in the canyon, in addition to other botanical changes over time.

Different peoples have lived in the canyon and Cache Valley over 12,000 years, said students Colby Page and Bonnie Cooper, focusing on the Clovis people and later the nomadic Shoshones.

The Shoshones used the canyon for water and shelter, said Jason Folkman, and early European settlers reported huge herds of buffalo in 1825, and in 1852 others reported that Cache Valley had the finest range imaginable for cattle.

“As Mormon pioneers settled the intermountain West,” Folkman said, “there was an early religious emphasis on conservation.”

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believed that the land belonged to the Lord and that they were its stewards, Folkman said.

After Brigham Young’s death in 1877, however, LDS settlers started to work the land more aggressively, Folkman said. Logging and overgrazing became a problem in Green Canyon, and it was not until President Theodore Roosevelt started creating national forests did changes take place.

Today, Green Canyon is used for recreation—hiking, backpacking, biking, camping, non-motorized winter sports, picnics and other activities—but these create their own problems, like soil compaction and litter, said student Summer Taylor.

“We aren’t giving these facts just to show you about Green Canyon, we’re trying to connect you with the land,” Kaliee Carter said. “We’re trying to make it apparent to you that this land is actually something to do with our lives.”

Gathering stories about the canyon also contributed to the research, as students discovered that significant events that were not recorded were remembered and passed down orally by many of the older citizens of the community, she said.

“One of our interviewees just kind of shared this view with us on the canyon, and with North Logan, and the community,” Carter said. “She said, ‘It’s important to a community to invest ownership of the canyon, and that bringing awareness and education to the public really creates a positive effect on the canyon and the people who use it.’”

Local residents attending the presentation shared their own stories and perspectives on North Logan’s canyon.

Arlenne Younker, 79, shared the story of her father as a boy and his brothers who told of wolves living in Green Canyon, as well as natural events that she herself and her husband had experienced while living in the valley.

“I’ve seen 300-year floods,” said Don Younker, 84, a North Logan resident who has lived there most of his life.

“I liked learning about it and made me want to go up there and take a look at it and learn more of what the canyon is about,” said resident Sarah Fassmann. “I mean what’s going on in the canyon, the things that are there instead of just walking in there and enjoying it, kind of thinking about what’s happened in the past.”

Other residents agreed that they had learned something news about a natural feature many take for granted. “It interesting,” said Andrew Simek. “We always talk about how things are getting worse and worse and worse, but actually it’s getting better.”


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  1. 2 Responses to “Green Canyon—Residents learn something new about their own back yard”

  2. By Jordan on Feb 12, 2011

    What an interesting article!

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  2. Feb 12, 2011: Hard News Cafe » Blog Archive » USU class studies Green Canyon’s past for lessons to preserve its future

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