City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

March 22, 2017

March 20th. Spring.

Filed under: Astronomy, Dogwood, Seasons, Woods Rose — canopus56 @ 6:25 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part I – Control of the Canyon

A note on formatting in this and future entries: Each daily entry consists of at most four parts:

• Daily nature observations in the canyon;

• Nature observations by Henry David Thoreau on the corresponding days of the year;

• An essay on science or history of the canyon; or,

• Digest of newspaper articles related to City Creek Canyon.

Each part is separated by a divider:

* * * *

3:00 p.m. It is the first day of astronomical spring, and for the next six months, light predominates over darkness. In response to this signal, changes in the small bushes of the canyon are dramatic. The first Wood’s rose bud opened a few days ago, but now all of the buds on all of the rose bushes in the first mile have opened in union. Seemingly overnight, their buds have swelled, burst out of their winter shells, and small leaves between one quarter and three quarters of an inch have unfurled. During the winter, the bare branches of Wood’s rose blend in with red-osier dogwood. The two plants, both with red branches, have an affinity for each other, but the rose can be distinguished by the protective gray spikes near its base. But now, only the Wood’s roses have bloomed, and it easy to distinguish them from the tangle or red dogwood and rose branches. This makes it easy for me to take a quick informal census of this wild rose. There are about one-hundred and ten wild Wood’s rose bushes in first mile. Wood’s rose also grows intertwined with service berry which is the other major bush that has bloomed. Herbaceous annuals and perennials with broad leaves, which yesterday were limited to the canyon’s southwest facing slope, poke up through the soil on both sides of the road. A parsley-like plant grows at the base of a tree, and the waxy seeds of poison ivy radiate lime-green light. Grasses, depending on their location in soil and with respect to sunlight, are an inch to five inches tall. Other woody plants, the trees, still hold back.

Winter has served its purpose for these new small herbaceous plants. Snow melted in place, and digging my heel into ground reveals that two inches below the surface, the soil is saturated and wet. The surface layer is dry, but spring rains and what little snow there is to still come, will wet this. The young, shallow plants will reach down to the moisture below. All is primed for the green explosion to come.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 20th, 1853, he records life-everlasting plant, ribwort, and birch sprouts. He sees quail and redpolls. On March 20th,1858, he revels over the tree-sparrow’s song. He admires willow catkins. He notes that fish are migrating upstream. On March 20th, 1859, he observes song-sparrows sheltering from the wind.

* * * *

City Creek Canyon is a remarkable natural environment. It is even more remarkable given its extensive history and modification through human use and exploitation. The history modification of its natural environment begins with the arrival of the initial Euro-American colonists in 1847, and it came in several waves: First, timber harvesting and irrigation development. The first dam was built in City Creek for irrigation purposes on August 2, 1847 (Hooten; Bancroft 261). Second, mining. Third, water infrastructure development. Fourth, road development and recreation use from the 1880s to the 1950s. Fifth, the present modern era of recreation and watershed use. The first wave was intimately tied to the second Mormon prophet, Brigham Young and the L.D.S. church objective of establishing a theodemocracy – that is governmental power led by spiritual leaders – in the valley. As part of establishing initial government in the valley, Brigham Young asserted both personal and beneficial ownership over all of City Creek Canyon on January 15, 1950.

Shortly after arriving in the valley on August 7, 1847, by declaration certain preferential land allotments where made to each of the Twelve Apostles of the L.D.S. Church, including Young (Neff, 90). Young’s award included the current site of the Lion House and extended up along First Avenue and down into Memory Grove. By the allotment, Young obtained control of the entrance to City Creek Canyon. He also was granted all of the City Creek drainage.

At the time of the first party arrival in July 1847, the Salt Lake Valley was part of Mexico, not the United States (Hooten 19). The United States was at war with Mexico, a war that in 1847 most expected it would win. On February 2nd, 1848 the war with Mexico ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the legal status of the Salt Lake Valley changed to become part of the unorganized public lands of the United States. “Unorganized lands” means public lands of the United States that have not been organized into a formal territory by the United States Congress pursuant to an organic act. However, the initial Euro-American colonizers where here in 1847 and they moved out of practical necessity to self-organize a government based on a theodemocratic model. In October 1847, they formed a municipal government, called the High Council, with George Smith as president (Hooten, 8; Bancroft, 297). Young left the valley on August 26, 1847 to return east and organize for further immigration parties (Neff, 98). In October 1848, an elected county government replaced the High Council (Bancroft, 287), and municipal authority was transferred from the Council to the new government. On March 12, 1849, by general election a new “state”, the State of Deseret was formed. Brigham Young had a unique legal interpretation on the right of individuals residing in unorganized lands to form a new state:

[In Articles IX and X of the U.S. Constitution,] it is definitely stated that “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. The power not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or the people.” . . . . We have a right to settle in any unoccupied and unclaimed part of the public domain owned by our Government, where the machinery of the Government has not extended, and there govern and control ourselves according to republican principles; and the Congress of the United States is not authorized in the least, by the Constitution that governs it, to make laws for the new settlement, and appoint adjudicators and administrators of the law for it, any more than we have a right to make laws and appoint administrators of the law for California, Ohio, Illinois, or Missouri.

Remarks of L.D.S. Church President Brigham Young (March 9, 1862). In Journal of Discourses, X:39-40, Salt Lake City (Ashton, xii, reprinted).

The new entity had no actual legal status under United States law; Young was simply wrong in his view. Only Congress could authorize the creation of a new territory or state from unorganized lands. Nevertheless, the new Assembly of the State of Deseret began passing various laws and ordinances, again out of practical necessity. On Sept. 9, 1850, the United States Congress passed the Utah Territorial Organic Act (Hooten, p. 18), but initial organization and appointments where not made until the spring of 1851. That included the appointment of Brigham Young as governor by U.S. President Fillmore.

Among the provisions of the Utah Territory Organic Act was Section 6, which provided that the Territorial Legislature would pass no law “interfering with the primary disposal of the soil . . .”

* * * *

On March 20th, 1915, the Burroughs Nature Study Club of Utah scheduled a celebration of Bird Day at Liberty Park on April 3rd with Heber M. Wells, City parks commissioner. The following pledge was recited, “In God’s name, and by these exercises, we dedicate Liberty Park . . . City Creek Canyon . . . and the Fort Douglas Reservation as bird sanctuaries sacred to the life and growth of the birds of all species for all time” (Salt Lake Telegram). The ceremony was held on April 3rd, 1915 (Salt Lake Herald and Salt Lake Telegram, Salt Lake Herald, April 4th, 1915). On March 20th, 1910, a group of twelve children had an outing in City Creek (Salt Lake Tribune). On March 20th, 1881, the Salt Lake Herald reported that the Old Henry Mine in City Creek Canyon has been storing valuable ore over the winter and are ready to bring the ore to market once snows recede (Salt Lake Herald).

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