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USU class studies Green Canyon’s past for lessons to preserve its future

February 1st, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

NORTH  LOGAN—A USU history class spent the Fall semester studying how people from early settlers to today have used Green Canyon, and will present their findings next week at the North Logan Library.

The object of the project, says Chris Conte, an associate professor of history at Utah State, was to examine how people have shaped the landscape of Cache Valley since its settlement, and to understand Green Canyon’s past in order to help preserve it for the future.

“The canyon is a mainstay of the people of Logan,” Conte said. “They have been using it for 100 years, and only one reason is recreational.”

Related Story: History students tell the tale of Green Canyon.

Students collected an oral history of Green Canyon from North Logan residents, examined artifacts from a 1940s archaeological dig, reviewed historical U.S. Forest Service surveys, and analyzed the area using typographical mapping.

Conte and his students will share their findings with interested area residents at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 8, at the North Logan Library. Students will speak about issues of intensive water and land use, the canyon’s health, and its chances for longevity, and hope then to brainstorm with residents on the canyon’s future.

“A lot of people have very different opinions about how the canyon should be used,” Conte said.  “We hope to learn more from the audience. We hope to follow up in subsequent courses.”

Many of the changes the students recorded were the result of intensive water and land usage from when Green Canyon was used for sheep and cattle grazing, logging, and stone excavation. To this day, the canyon supplies much of the water for the city. But Conte says the water table is dropping, with an impact on plant life.

“Parts of the canyon are like a ghost forest,” he said. “I study Africa and I try to read landscapes, how they have changed due to culture and nature. You can see vestiges of the past in the landscape, especially the vegetation.”

Conte’s students examined how Native American groups used the canyon and consulted native plant experts to determine how the ecology has changed.

Jason Folkman, a senior majoring in history and geology, looked at the human history, studying activities in the Wellsville Mountains and surrounding areas. Folkman himself grew up in Logan but never knew its history.

“I always kind of wrote it off,” he said.

Conte’s class taught Folkman a little more about his own back yard. Throughout the fall, the class took trips to the canyon, exploring the now-dry riverbed and learning about conflicts between users such as campers, bikers, hikers and motorists. They saw first-hand the impact humans have had on the landscape.

“The canyon you see today is the product of hundreds of years of change,” Folkman said. “The trees that you see were selected by loggers and conservationists. I learned to appreciate how much the environment has changed.

“The canyon has been beat up a lot in the past,” he said. “In a lot of ways it is healthier than it used to be, but there is definitely room for improvement.”

For more information on the project or the Feb. 8 presentation, contact Kristen Munson, public relations specialist at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at 435.797.0267.


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