City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

July 30, 2017

July 21st, 2016 – End of Cyclical Year, Revised and Reposted

Microorganisms, Moss, Lichens, Glaciers, and Climate Trends

(Revised and expanded after lichen identification completed.)

3:30 p.m. It is another day intense summer heat, and as I pull into the parking lot, I take notice of a large Limber pine (Pinus flexilis at the lot’s end, south of the row of cultivar Horsechestnut trees. The Limber pine, Narrowleaf cottonwoods and the Horsechestnuts are among the largest plant organisms in the canyon, excepting some of the 50 foot diameter copses of Gambel’s oaks that may be one large, genetically identical sister plant. A bizarrely twisted, immature Limber pine hides behind to the east of side of the Guardhouse Gate building, and just past the gate, another conifer, a mature 70 foot tall native Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii). Key taxonomic differences between the two is that round pine needles occur in groups of two and flat fir and spruce needles are single. At mile 1.7 at picnic site no. 12. There a forty foot tall Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) is flanked by two taller Engelmann spruce trees. Although native to northern Utah, these three trees have been artificially planted to provide shade for picnic area.

Jogging up canyon about 100 yards up from the gate, I pass a deadly Bittersweet nightshade plant with small 1.5 inch green fruit. Splitting one of the fruit open, it is full of 1 mm bright orange larvae, and testing a few more, they are all infected. Given the number of young children that pass this spot, this is probably not a good place for a poisonous plant.

In the heat, I jog alone through an empty road, except for bicyclists. Near mile 0.3, sounds in the Gambel’s oak forest undergrowth betrays an yearling Mule deer stares back through the leaves. It is waiting for me to pass, so it can reach the stream and water. A bicyclist streaks unaware of its presence. A slight anabatic up-canyon wind provides a brief relief.

Beginning at mile 0.5 and the pond at picnic site 5, I collect the sponges placed in the stream and seeps on July 15th. The sponges have been collecting microorganisms for several days. I have looked at water samples from the stream under a microscope several times since May, but have never seen any microorganisms. That is a testament to how pure City Creek Canyon water is. My microorganism observing guide suggests using the sponges to trap organisms over time. The sponges also provide a protected framework that might appeal to microorganisms by providing shelter. The first sponge was located below the pond at picnic site 5, and it was placed under a cover of rocks such that stream water would continuously flow through the sponge. The first from the stream is a dark brown – a good sign. The second collected from the seep below picnic site 6 and the third is retrieved from the watercress seep also below picnic site 6. All three are a dark brown-grey color; the sponges have worked.

At the seep below picnic site 6, the Horsemint is in full bloom, and I count 32 Cabbage white butterflies feeding on them. A single Central bumble bee (Bombus centralis) collects among the butterflies. These are joined by an orange Mexican queen butterfly. I stand mesmerized by the glade for a few minutes. Nightshade is now also blooms in this glade.

Carpenter bee (Xylocopa californica) reappear after their first spring flight. Uniquely, they fly in a circular pattern closely around me twice, and having rejected me as potential food, they fly off with purposeful intent.

Proceeding again up canyon through the heat, only a few birds are heard at some distance from the stream. I cannot distinguish their calls, except for the nasal cawing of a Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis).

At mile 1.1, I stop where a large rock ledge overhangs the stream and admire a tremendous cottonwood cross, a Populus angustifolia x fremontii S. Wats. This 100 foot tree with a twenty-four inch trunk betrays it hybrid nature through two suckers, each 8 inches in diameter at the base. The parent tree has ovate leaves typical of the cross. Those leaf forms continue on one of the suckers, but at its very tip is one perfectly formed triangular Fremont popular leaf. Mid-way up the second sucker, that is also covered in hybrid leaves, is a bracket of perfectly formed thin Narrowleaf cottonwood leaves. This tree must be at least 100 years old, and perhaps it is older and witnessed the arrival of the Euro-American colonists in 1847. At a few minutes of enjoying this tree, I notice that it is looking back at me. More precisely, another Mule deer is on the rock ledge on the far side of the stream, and it is intently following me. I continue up canyon so it can reach water unmolested.

At mile 1.2, I turn down-canyon on the Pipeline Trial in order to photograph some of the lichens on rocks that line the trail down to where it is perpendicular to the Red Bridge and Chimney Rock. The Gambel’s oaks that border each side of the trail are covered in a ubiquitous dusky orange lichen that is found throughout the canyon. Here the rocks are principally volcanic breccia or limestone conglomerates. The first rock has lichens that are three inch diameter turquoise dollops with raised fruiting centers. The second rock has a large turquoise dollop on one corner and fire yellow bright lichen on one face. This rock also has small dark black lichen circles. The third rock has bright orange circles with darkened brown centers. The fourth has similar bright orange two inch dollops with fruiting orange centers. This same orange rock lichen is common in the canyon. For example, it covers parts of the rock bridge at Weeping Falls near mile 5.2. This bright orange lichen only appears on rocks, and its dusky orange brother keeps to the trees. Near the end of this segment, a gully provides more shade an water. Here, the rocks are covered in complex moss complexes, and unidentified green-black small-onion like moss with fine white hairs.

Continuing up canyon to a western gully near mile 2.3, there is another slope with favored lichen rocks. Here the rocks are sandstone based. In the gully, the first rock is a kaleidoscope of circular lichens colored bright orange, turquoise, and black. The next rock is covered with a bulbous green-black moss with fine white hairs. This is followed by a rock covered in turquoise-green lichen that has a darker brown center. Finally, two foot square areas of an unidentified green-black bulbous lichen attach to a rock ledge’s horizontal surface. Looking over some of my other lichen photographs above milepost 5.0, two prominent upturned limestone ledges stick out next to the road. On these a montane grey-milk lichen that look like delicate leaf petals cling to the stone.

This is all a riot of color mixed with abstract design. Lichen are oldest and, for me, they embody the most alien of terrestrial life. I also hold them in the highest respect because they are all a form of extremophile. They thrive on canyon rocks that both bake to temperatures over 150 degrees during the summer, and they continue to reproduce during the subzero cold of deepest winter. They live on the surface of barren rocks and take all that they need from the passing air and rain. And, what else the need in terms of minerals, they obtain by dissolving the solid rocks to which they attach. Moss are less of an extremophile, but tree moss are one of the few plants that continue photosynthesis through the depths of winter (January 10th).

Returning down-canyon near mile 1.3, ahead, I again here the screeching of a Peregrine falcon. Two falcons are chasing two unidentified hawks away from the sandstone cliffs on the east wall of the canyon near mile 1.0. One falcon easily chases a hawk up canyon and over the ridge. The second hawk begins to climb in lazy, large circles, and the remaining peregrine follows. The peregrine raises higher and then stoops the hawk, all the while screeching loudly. This continues for about 15 minutes. At times I loose sight of the pair as they circle overhead with the Sun behind them. The spring sky is a deep blue, but today, the summer sun makes the atmosphere a white turquoise.

Continuing down-canyon, at picnic site 5 where I collected one sponge, an innovative young couple using long lengths of climbing webbing, have suspended two bright Central American woven hammocks over the stream. They lay side-by-side enjoying the stream-cooled air.

At Guardhouse Gate, there are the cut fireplace-sized remains of a large tree. A quick count of its rings indicates the tree is over one-hundred years old. As the the city cuts down infirm trees in the canyon, they leave the carcasses here as free firewood. The cause of this tree’s demise can be seen in one segment of log – it is riddled to the inner pith with boring beetle tunnels. To supplement my gathering of water borne small life, I also collect from the logs’ surfaces, samples of Green tree moss (probably Orthotrichum sp.) and of orange, black and turquoise lichens.

The lower flood retention pond is full of algae mats. A family of mallards graze on the greenery. The chicks, who a few weeks ago where only four inches long, are now twice that size.

At home, I examine water from the three sponges in under a microscope at 60 power of magnification in order to see some of the smallest plants and animals of the canyon. All of the samples consist mostly of bits of algae, some of which are strung on the ends of mold filament, pulverized bits of plant, and specks of silica. No moving protists are seen. A few rectangular-celled with diatoms with well-defined glass-like walls of the genus Fragellaria are found. Two circular diatoms of the genus Stephanodiscus are seen. Finally, a single, transparent perfectly formed leg of an insect exactly fills the eyepiece and then floats away. This is clean City Creek water.

At home and through the hand-lens, the leaves of the moss, which are present both on trees and on rocks in the stream, reveal their earlier evolution as compared to the leaves of the surrounding trees. They are thin and transparent sheets of green cells, and they lack any vascular features found in true leaves.

Under the hand-lens, where the black lichens interface with the tree’s bark, a separate white hyphae through which digestion occurs. Lichens are composite organisms of algae or green bacteria living symbiotically with fungi. Through the hand-lens, one can see two colors, representing the two organisms in the turquoise and orange lichens. The turquoise portion of the turquoise lichen is also surrounded by white hyphae. The second color is green, and through the lens, these resolve as small bits of algae. That lichens exist on almost all of the trees in the first two miles of road is a good sign. Lichen are sensitive to air pollution and will disappear if Salt Lake’s air quality severely deteriorates over a long period.

The length of the day have changed noticeable from June 20th’s summer solstice. Sunset comes an hour earlier around 9 p.m.

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St. Clair, Newberry and Nebeker (1991 and 1995) provide a comprehensive list of Utah lichens. They and Flowers (1954) describe which species of lichen are common in various northern Utah habitats, including for the scrub oak forest of Gambel’s oaks, the higher subalpine habitat of Quaking aspens, and the montane habitat of conifers. Brodo of the Canadian Nature Museum and Sharnoff and Sharnoff of the Missouri Botanical Gardens published the definite photographic identification guide for lichens: their massive 2001 “Lichens of North America”. They note common lichen species for the Gambel’s oak forest include Lecanora hageni, Phaeoplzyscia orbicu/aris, Physcia adscendens, Physcia dubia, Physcia stellaris, Plzysconia grisea, Xanthoria fallax, and Xanthoria polycarpa. Using these sources, my descriptions and photographs match with the following scientific names:

List of Lichens

• Hooded sunburst lichen (Xanthoria fallax): This is the dusky-orange lichen that covers most of the Gambel’s oak trees in the canyon (Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff, 744).

• Pin-cushion sunburst lichen (Xanthoria polycarpa): This is the bright orange lichen that covers many rocks in the canyon, including the stone bridge at mile 5.2 (Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff, 746).

• Stonewall rim-lichen (Lecanora muralis): This lichen was the even-toned yellow-green (turquoise) circles on rocks along the Pipeline Trail (Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff, 383)

• Sagebrush rim-lichen (Lecanora garovaglii). This is the yellow-green (turquoise) lichen with a darker green center on a rock along the Pipeline Trail (Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff, 380).

• New Mexico rim-lichen ( Lecanora novomexicana): This darker yellow-greenish lichen with yellow fringes was found in the gully near mile 2.2 (Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff, 384).

• Gold cobblestone lichen (Pleopsidium flavum): This is the bright yellow lichen on one rock along the Pipeline Trail. (Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff, 578).

• Powder-tipped rosette lichen (Physcia dubia): This is the delicate leaf-shaped lichen on the limestone vertical fins near mile 5.0 (Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff, 554).

Like today’s Great Salt Lake (May 26th), ancient Lake Bonneville’s water levels and glaciation of the Salt Lake’s canyons at the end of the last ice age gives clues as to the climate of the Salt Lake valley and the canyon. That record is hidden within the valley’s rocks and trees. In 2015 and updating a prior study from 1997, Oviatt at the University of Kansas reconstructed date ranges in which ancient lake rose and fell by radiocarbon dating organic material in tufa deposits along the lake’s former shorelines. He concluded that Lake Bonneville began its rise about 30,000 years ago (id., Table 1). Between 15,000 and 18,000 years ago, Lake Bonneville reached its maximum height at about 5,100 feet, or near the northern end of Pleasant Valley in the canyon near mile 1.7. Following the failure of the Red Rock ice dam in Idaho, the Lake drained to the Provo Shoreline, which is Bonneville Drive and 11th Avenue in the City. Other the next 15,000 years, the lake gradually declined to the current level of the Great Salt Lake (id).

In 2011, Laabs, Marchetti, and Munroe and colleagues used residual Beryllium 10 isotopes in rocks, taken from the glacial moraines in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake valley and American Fork Canyon in Utah valley, in order to date when glaciers retreated up from the ancient lake’s shores. An ongoing question existed amongst geologists, based on conflicting earlier studies, concerning whether the Salt Lake glaciers receded before, coincident with or after the end of the last Ice Age and-or before, coincident with or after the end of the peak level of Lake Bonneville. Figure 1 of their study shows the area of glaciation stretching from American Fork to the south and Farmington, Utah in the north, thus, including City Creek Canyon. They concluded that glaciers covering the Salt Lake valley canyons started to retreat 15,700 plus or minus 1,300 years before the present, either during or shortly after the maximum 5,100 foot shoreline height of ancient Lake Bonneville. Their confidence interval overlaps the 15,000 to 18,000 years before the present found by Oviatt for the maximum height of Lake Bonneville. Deglaciation started about 4,000 years after the end of the continental Ice Age at 18,000 years ago. Because the lake reached its maximum and retreat of the local glaciers started after the end of the Ice Age, Laabs, Marchetti, and Munroe et al concluded that the local climate between 18,000 and 15,000 years ago was wetter than thought by prior geologists.

That there were glaciers in City Creek Canyon below Grandview Peak and at the canyon’s final hanging valley (September 8th) seems evident from an examination of any terrain map and hiking the canyon. But to my knowledge, there are no studies dating the glacial deposits in City Creek Canyon. Van Horn and Crittenden’s geologic map shows no surficial glacier features (Van Horn and Crittenden, 1987, U.S.G.S. I-1762). Perhaps there was a lighter ice sheet over the canyon 15,000 years ago, but it was insufficient to crave the bedrock.

The Engelmann spruces and other pine trees that live in association with the spruces, tell the history of Salt Lake valley’s and the canyon’s climate for the last 13,000 years before the present. In Little Cottonwood Canyon, Engelmann spruce share the glacial scoured hillsides with Limber pine (Pinus flexilis). Engelmann spruce is more tolerant of wet earth and colder soil temperatures, and Limber pine is more tolerant of dry earth and warmer soil temperatures. Thus, as climate changes occur over thousands of years, the relative amount of pollen left in soil layers beneath their canopy gives a general indication of weather in the distant past. In 1979, Madsen and Currey at the University of Utah used a bog in Gad Valley near Snowbird Ski Resort to reconstruct Utah’s late Holocene climate (Madsen and Currey 1979). Based on moraine deposits, the maximum extent of glaciation that extruded glaciers into the Salt Lake valley floor occurred about 25,000 years ago. After a period of warming, a second smaller glacial period ensued and Madsen and Currey, using the bog at Gad Valley places that around 12,500 years ago. Then glaciers within Little Cottonwood Canyon retreated and disappeared. A similar bog in Albion Basin at the top of Little Cottonwood is dated at 9,500 years (id, 258). Using the ratio of Engelmann spruce and Limber pine in the Gad Valley bog, Madsen and Currey were able to reconstruct the relative climate of the canyon, and by extension the Salt Lake Valley and City Creek Canyon, for the past 12,500 years. Between 13,000 and 8,000 years before the present, the valley’s climate was cooler and wetter than today. Between 8,000 and 5,000 before the present, advancing Limber pines indicate a warmer and drier climate than today. Then there was a brief period in which temperatures greatly declined, followed by a quick warming and a gradual decline to today’s cooler temperatures with respect to the 13,000 year mean (id, at Fig. 6 and 265). In contrast, precipitation has been on a gradual decline for the last 6,500 years and is currently near the 13,000 year mean (id). These are consistent with Grayson’s climate divisions for the Great Basin Holocene generally: 10,000 to 7,500 years before the present (early), 7,500 to 4,500 years before the present (middle), and 4,500 years before the present until today (late) (Grayson, Chap. 8).

Over the last 4,500 years, a picture of trends in Salt Lake City’s local climate can be developed from tree ring, Gad Valley bog pollen, and other climate research. Since 4,500 years before the present, there was a brief period in which temperatures greatly declined, followed by a quick warming and a gradual decline to today’s cooler temperatures with respect to the 13,000 year mean (Madsen and Currey, Fig. 6 and 265). It is now colder than average than over the last 13,000 years. The Little Ice lasted from about 1300 C.E. to 1850 B.C. There were highly variable swings in temperature during this time, but those changes were not global, but regional (Solomon et al 2007; Houghton et al 2001). In Utah, the Little Ice Age ended in 1850 and was followed by the most severe winter in Utah history, the winter of 1855-1856.

Since 4,500 years before the present, precipitation has been on a gradual decline for the last 6,500 years and is currently near the 13,000 year mean (Madsen and Currey). From 1492 to the present, the tree rings show that persistent, severe droughts were far more prevalent in the distant past than in the 150 years of Euro-American presence in northern Utah (Bekker et al 2014). Variability in Salt Lake City precipitation since the 1960s, including severe drought in the 1960s and peak flooding in the 1980s, is tied to the Pacific Quasi-Decadal Oscillation, an 11 year cycle of drought and heavy precipitation tied to ocean temperatures off the coast of California and Japan. The level of the Great Salt Lake acts as a recorder of climate, and the Lake’s level has been recorded continuously since 1875 (USGS, 2017a, USGS, 2017b). In the summer of 2016, it dropped to a new historical low of 4,190.1 feet (id).

In 2010, Wang and colleagues at the Utah State University associated the Pacific Quasi-Decadal Oscillation (PQDO) with a northern Utah three-year leading precipitation and a six year leading level of the Great Salt Lake (Wang, Fig. 4 at 2166). In the association with the level of the Great Salt Lake, PQDO warm phase peaks are associated with the lowest lake levels and PQDO cool phase troughs are associated with the highest lake levels. In 2013, DeRose, Wang and colleagues used tree rings to reconstruct the level of the Great Salt Lake back to 1429, and they associated the lake’s level to the pacific oscillation back to 1700 (DeRose 2013). In recent years, the PQDO has been good for Utah. While California has suffered severe drought, the PQDO has kept annual precipitation relatively higher in Utah (IWWA Project).

The PQDO has not had a phase change since 1997 and the change to a heavy precipitation pattern is overdue. Despite heavy winter snowfall in the high mountains during the winter of 2016-2107, Utah remains in an extended drought with unseasonably warm summers.

Future uncertainty is added by the effect of global warming. Has global warming disrupted the Pacific Quasi-Decadal Oscillation? What will its future impact be? However, even excluding global warming, Salt Lake City and Utah are on a path towards relatively hotter weather and declining water supplies as compared to the past.

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On July 21st, 1942, the City banned the entire north bench of Salt Lake City to entry due to fire hazard, but access to City Creek Canyon would remain open (Salt Lake Telegram). On July 21st, 1906, the Deseret Evening News published a picture of a 10 foot snow bridge across City Creek Canyon about nine miles up the canyon. On July 21st, prize fighter Tommy Reilly trained by taking a long run up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On July 21st, 1903, about 100 Ute Tribe members gathered for an annual celebration at the mouth of City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald). (In the present, the Ute Tribe holds an annual meet at Liberty Park.)

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July 23, 2017

July 20th

Smuggler’s Gap

11:00 a.m. To escape the estival heat wave, today I decide to jog and hike up the switchback trail to Smuggler’s Gap on Little Black Mountain. At the end of paved canyon road and after a short three-quarter mile jog, the trail to Smuggler’s Gap begins to wind up a a fifty degree slope on the western side of the Salt Lake salient. This also marks the beginning of the ridgeline that divides the City’s Avenues neighborhood from the canyon. Because of its step angle and orientation to the Sun, this slope is in perpetual shade, and that makes for both the cool hikes on a hot days and a micro-climate that supports the giant Lodgepole pines on either side of the trail. The Smuggler’s Gap trailhead is partially washed away, and the hike begins with ill-footing and unplanned slips and slides before the Civilian Conservation Corps era resumes. The trail is firm and well-packed, despite being unmaintained for several decades. This is also the result of the climate and Lodgepoles whose chemical containing needles prevent other plants from sprouting. Hiking in the Wasatch Mountain Range always involves steep vertical gains, and the quick rises always provide a physical metaphors for rising spirits traveling to an emotional release from daily life. Here, going “higher” means more than simply walking uphill. This slope is also the domain of the canyon’s population of Stellar jays (Cyanocitta stelleri). Over the 1,000 foot elevation gain to the ridge, I count about 30 jays in various groups. All are loud, raucous, and characteristically complain about by my intrusion into their home. The clean air clears the mind.

One of the last switchbacks turns at a “U” shaped gully about 30 feet across that descends precipitously back to the end of the road. In late spring of 1985, this gully was still choked with a 100 year snowpack event, and as I then starred down its tube, approaching storm clouds obscured the view after the first one-hundred feet. Wearing late winter shell clothing, I pulled out my ice axe and jumped. About ten minutes later of high-speed sliding and ice-axe arrests, I arrived at the parking lot and a long walk out the canyon.

Today, there is no ice and snow, and after another 100 feet altitude, I reach the pass at Black Mountain. After a fifty foot rock scramble, I reach the 200 million year old limestone fin that defines the first one-half mile of the ridgeline of Little Black Mountain.

The Utah State Department of Health announced yesterday that a another invasive has reached Utah – the microorganism West Nite virus (Flavivirus family). Health department sampling has found five mosquitoes in Salt Lake valley. Although the department has not stated where the samples were located, tree holes in the canyon mark sites from which samples are collected (Nov. 7th). Like its predecessor, the dry, brown Cheat grass on the hills above the canyon and on the City’s northern foothills, this new invasive species has the potential to dramatically change the landscape, if it is not checked early.

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On July 20th, 2004, a female runner allegedly disappeared while jogging in City Creek Canyon (Deseret News). On July 20th, 2004, three-hundred volunteers search City Creek Canyon for a jogger, Lori Hacking, who was reported missing by her husband (Salt Lake Tribune, July 20, 21 and 24, 2004, Deseret News, 1,200 searched). Eventually, 4,000 people will participate in the search (Salt Lake Tribune, August 1, 2004). The husband later pled guilty to killing her and of disposing of her body elsewhere (Salt Lake Tribune, April 15, 2005).

July 19, 2017

July 18th

Radio Tower Run and Anti-wind

8:30 a.m. In the morning air, I begin one of my more favorite canyon jogs: the Radio Tower run. This track begins at lower Pleasant Valley at mile 1.3, ascends straight up the natural gas pipeline road to the western ridge of the Salt Lake salient, down to a set of large microwave radio towers on the ridge, and then returns via the Bonneville Shoreline Trail to Guardhouse Gate. The total physical distance is about five miles, but in spirit is longer. The trip begins with a half-mile hike up a forty degree slope through Gambel’s oak and Cheat grass, but one is rewarded by increasingly improving views of the urban city below. At the ridgeline, there are several acres of Kentucky bluegrass and in prior years it was not unusual to find a morning or evening moose grazing in the field. This year, there is no moose, but as in prior years, I again flush a pair of Greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) from the undergrowth. Commanding views of Wasatch Mountain Front Range, Salt Lake City, the Oquirrh Mountains, and the Great Salt Lake coupled with cooling, strong ridgeline breezes release the mind. Descending along a fire road to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, I next follow the Trail horizontally through two dense valleys of Gambel’s oaks that are hidden behind Ensign Peak. These are the breeding grounds of the local population of Black-billed magpies (Pica hudsonia), and consistent with their curious personality, one or two break from their continuous challenging cawing to give me a brief inspection. By now the combination of increasing heat and exercise begins to take effect as I descend the last leg of the trail as it crosses a pass and descends back down into City Creek Canyon. The trail passes under ledges of brown sandstone created from the erosion of a vast, but now disappeared mountain range in Nevada (January 7th). In past springs, cliffs have hosted Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) nests. Before noon, I am tired but happy to reach the water fountain at Guardhouse Gate. An afternoon down canyon breeze provides more cooling.

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Because of its unique geography and proximity the Great Salt Lake, the first 1.2 miles of City Creek Canyon Road is subject to unusual anti-winds (Steenburgh 2016). The direction of winds through mountain canyons are normally thermally driven by the relative temperature of the surrounding mountains and the valleys below. As with high and low pressure weather systems, wind moves away from the center of a region of hot, high pressure air. In the afternoon when flat valley floors are hotter than the surrounding cool mountain ridges, up-canyon anabatic wind blows. Down-slope katabatic wind blows at night and during the mornings away from the mountains when the mountain air is relatively hotter than valley floor air (Whiteman 2000). Any long-distance weekend bicyclist in northern Utah are aware of these winds. When pleasure riding up-canyon in the mornings, the katabatic winds produce fierce headwinds, and then in the late afternoon, when returning home down the canyon, a rider is met by strong anabatic headwinds. The afternoon winds can be near hurricane force. I remember a few unique experiences in the 1980s and 1990s of be unable to pedal downhill against anabatic winds even though I stood up on the pedals and pressed downward as hard as possible.

Meteorologist Steenburgh of the University of Utah notes that the geography of City Creek Canyon generates antiwinds that blow down-canyon during the heat of the day (Steenburgh 2016). The western ridge of the Salt Lake salient is higher than the eastern Avenues ridgeline. Afternoon cool breezes flow off of the Great Salt Lake from the west to the east across the lower canyon. This induces wind in the canyon to overwhelm the usual afternoon up-canyon anabatic wind, and antiwind, or wind that is flowing downcanyon against the normal direction of anabatic wind, results.

The Great Salt Lake breezes that cross over the western and eastern Salt Lake salients may explain why so may soaring birds are seen transiting the canyon. The west-to-east cross breeze allows them to tack up wind and up canyon like sailboats. They can either again climb the south-eastern salient as the breeze turns upward off the ridge, or they can shoot down canyon along its middle and riding the anti-wind.

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On July 18th, 1934, 74 citizens, as part of military training at Fort Douglas, hiked up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On July 18th, Waterworks Superintendent F.L. Hines boasted at a national convention that Salt Lake had some of the purest water in the nation (Salt Lake Telegram).Salt Lake had some of the purest water in the nation (Salt Lake Telegram).

July 16, 2017

July 15th

The Homeless and the Canyon

External Link to Image

Bluets on Bulrush in City Creek Canyon at Seep (Lat. 40.8014929, Long. -111.8749328). Author taken July 2017.

3:30 p.m. True summer heat near 100 degrees Fahrenheit returns and the canyon air takes on oven-like qualities of later in the season. While I was born in the cold of the northeast, part of my adolescence was spent under the blazing sun of southern California deserts. My now heated adapted summer body takes the high temperatures easily. The pulse slows; veins and arteries expand; blood flows and cools in hands and legs. Limbs become flexible; muscles relax; and toxins escape through open pores. The mind becomes lethargic and meditative, but with exercise in heat, thinking remains clear.

The heat has emptied the first mile of road, and only a few joggers are present. The road becomes as empty as in the opposite side of the temperature scale, that is in the depth of winter (December 27th). As in winter, I no longer recognize in myself the person who ran through five degree temperatures.

The heat also affects mammals and insects. Counter-intuitively, it makes Rock squirrels active, and I count three in the first mile. Insects begin to succumb. On the road’s surface, Grasshopper (Melanoplus sp.) lays dead, baking on the road, and that carcass is followed by a Giant western crane fly. Next, I find a spent Cabbage white butterfly. This allows me to examine one this usually hyperactive insect with my hand lens. As their name implies, the Cabbage whites are white in color, but close-up their abdomens are jet black. Numerous white hairs cover that segment and make the butterfly appear all-white.

The earth has dried out, and turns the rare cases of stationary surface water in the canyon into oases. The oasis at the seep about 100 yards below picnic site no. 6 (Lat. 40.8014929, Long. -111.8749328) has reached an idyllic peak of diversity. In an ellipsis of sixty by twenty feet, Circumpolar bluets rest on Bulrushes surrounded by Indian ricegrass and fronted by Kentucky bluegrass. These grasses surrounds a water rivulet in which Western Yellowjacket wasps and White Admiral butterflies stop and rest for a drink. Giant cattails are flanked on one side by six foot tall Horsemint (Agastache urticifolia (Benth.) Kuntze), a.k.a. Nettleleaf Giant Hyssop or Nettleleaf Giant Horsemint, covered in Cabbage white butterflies. On the other stands five foot tall blue Chicory. Stands of Starry solomon’s seal are backed by a large grove of Western poison ivy and are intermixed and are intermixed with Common California aster. A cultivar Weeping willow (Salix babylonica) shades the up-canyon end of the glade.

A short-distance downcanyon, three rare butterfly visitors are seen with orange wings, a black circumferential band and white wing spots. These are Mexican queen butterflies (Danaus gilippus strigosus), and they are usually restricted to New Mexico.

Up-canyon, this season’s teasels (Dipsacus sylvestris) have risen to four feet in height below the Red Bridge. For some weeks, the great two foot triangular leaves of the Burdock (Arctium minus Berhn) invasive weeds that line the canyon road have been raising two and three foot vertical stalks, but their purple flower heads have yet to open.

Today, I place three sponges in the lower canyon. The first is in the stream below the pond at picnic site 5. The second is in the seep 100 yards below picnic site 6, described above, and the third in at the watercress stand at the tunnel seep 50 yards below picnic site 6. I will retrieve these in a few days to see what mirco-life has become trapped or grown in the sponge’s cavities.

The intense Sun has boiled huge summer cumulus clouds from the reservoirs that line the eastern side of the Wasatch Front Mountain Range, and the clouds frame the north and eastern ridgelines of the canyon as I reach the Gate. Those reservoirs provide the valley with most of its drinking water. In the parking lot, an elderly gentleman, who each day leaves a homeless concentration zone at 500 West and 200 South in the City to seek the canyon’s cool breezes, sits on a bench eating a sandwich.

* * * *

The homeless have long had a relationship with City Creek Canyon. In addition to the homeless person who spends the day at a picnic parking lot, another homeless individual frequents the canyon during the winter, but spends cold nights in a local supermarket. Sometimes in the depths of winter, I have taken the homeless who come to the canyon with the intention of camping overnight back to the city and advise them that they have underestimated the sub-zero temperatures of canyon winter nights. Some are obviously mentally ill. They talk to themselves and their mental illness is either the result of the stress of becoming homeless or an effect of their pre-existing mental illness. For many years, there was a small homeless tent city near the parking lot gate off the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, but in recent years, the County and the City cleared the camp out. Now the watershed patrol vigorously patrols the canyon and takes any homeless citizens back to the concentration zone on the valley floor citing the fear that persons in a homeless camp might set the canyon’s grasslands on fire. While that is a legitimate concern, I suspect the City also quickly acts to remove any homeless from the canyon in part because middle-income citizens simply do not want the homeless there. They fear the homeless as potentially violent and secretly they fear becoming homeless themselves in an uncertain economy.

Salt Lake citizens struggle with the moral ambiguities created by their city’s homeless concentration zone. City residents have long resisted building sufficient facilities to house the homeless on the unsupported theory that building more beds will attract more homeless, and residents, like most other major United States cities, have long avoided building enough affordable housing. The City also struggles with the practice of surrounding communities and hospitals shipping their destitute and ill residents to into the City’s concentration zone. In the 1980s, Salt Lake City took the lead on homelessness by opening Utah’s first homeless shelters. Rather than expending monies addressing their own homeless problem by building their own shelters, for years, neighboring cities have shipped their destitute to the concentration zone citing that Salt Lake City was the only municipality with facilities to house them. Although the concentration zone has become a state and national embarrassment, city residents prefer to keep the homeless out-of-sight and away from other areas of the city, including out of the canyon.

The homeless’ relationship with the canyon goes back farther than this: the homeless built the canyon’s infrastructure. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the City dealt with its homelessness problem by shipping the destitute to the canyon. An early Utah statute permitted cities to impress the destitute and mentally ill convicted of the crime of vagrancy into road work gangs (Utah Code Ann. 10-8-85). In the early 1900s, when the City wanted to build a wider, graded road up City Creek Canyon to promote the new automobile tourism, it began systematic sweeps of the city, arresting the homeless for vagrancy as needed to supply laborer for building the canyon’s road (e.g., Salt Lake Herald, Sept. 26, 1910; Salt Lake Telegram, Nov. 11th, 1913). The city police were sophisticated in their sweeps. For example, in 1908, the road gang needed an experienced “dynamite man” to handle explosives used to break up rock ledges along the canyon road’s path. The Police Department did a sweep of vagrants seeking to arrest one with necessary skill (Deseret Evening News, April 24th, 1908). Unemployed miners got wind of the scheme and fled the city. A particularly racist cartoon, by modern standards, in the August 14th, 1904 Salt Lake Tribune shows who was working on road gangs and what residents’ attitudes were towards the poor. The gangs consisted of elderly unemployed men, persons with alcohol addiction, and minorities. On April 28th, 1908, Mark Aaron, a prisoner serving a 90 day sentence for vagrancy, was shot to death in the canyon will attempting to escape the road gang (Deseret Evening News). The officer claimed that he was aiming for Aaron’s legs, but missed and instead the bullet entered Aaron’s head. In 1972, the United States Supreme Court declared vagrancy laws unconstitutional.

This darker era in Salt Lake’s past provides some instruction for the City’s modern homeless problem. What the destitute need to restore their dignity is a roof over their heads and paying employment, even if that means government provided make work. If at night there are any ghosts wandering the canyon, they are probably of homeless men rattling their work gang chains.

* * * *

On July 15th, 2015, Mayor Ralph Becker proposes a “Connecting to Nature” plan in which $125 million USD bond would fund park renovations and new land acquisition (Deseret News). On July 15th, 1938, hard oil surfacing of the scenic drive along Bonneville Drive and 11th Avenue was nearly complete (Salt Lake Telegram). On July 17th, 1915, the U.S. Weather Bureau installed an advanced stream flow measuring gauge at the High Line Water Tanks in Pleasant Valley (Salt Lake Herald). On July 15th, 1891, the Red Bird Mine reports opening a four foot wide vein that may contain 1,000 ounces of silver (Salt Lake Times). Fifteen men are working at various prospects in City Creek Canyon (id).

July 14, 2017

July 14th

An Upside Down Side Canyon

2:00 p.m. Today, I drive 4.3 miles up-canyon to Freeze Creek, an north trending side canyon that begins at Lower Rotary Park. The side canyon leads uphill to Mueller Park below Unnamed peak at 8283 feet. The trail was probably constructed in the 1920s by the Rotary Club, and the canyon supports piping and a cement encased natural spring that delivers water to the picnic area below. What I like about the Freeze Creek hike is that the canyon is, botanically, upside down. Because the canyon rises towards the north, it spends most of its time in perpetual shade, and thus, the canyon is colder at the bottom than at the top. The hike begins at its lowest elevation along a stream and through a grove of Lodgepole pine, a tree that normally grows at colder and higher elevations, and then ascends through tall maple trees and Quaking aspen trees. Off in the distance of this lower part of the Freeze Creek, I can hear the taping of a Downy woodpecker(Picoides pubescens). Then as the trail exits higher into warming sunlight, open grassland appears that ends at an impenetrable forest of Gambel’s oaks. To the east of the oak forest, a Birchleaf mountain mahogany grove can be penetrated, and after a few minutes of effort, access to a trail that leads to Mueller Park Grove is gained.

* * * *

On July 14th, 1906, the Salt Lake Herald published two panoramic photographs of Salt Lake City by George Mortimer Gutch. One contrasted downtown Salt Lake City at 200 South Main and the second was taken near the top of Smuggler’s Gulch on Black Mountain, City Creek Canyon. On July 14th, 1886, City Engineer George Ottinger and work crews were cleaning out the City Creek stream bed of debris in order to increase water quality (Salt Lake Herald).

July 13, 2017

July 13th – Revised

The Thoreauian Experience

4:00 p.m. In the near 100 Fahrenheit degree afternoon heat, at a seep along Bonneville Drive leading to the canyon, there is a thick stand of Common goldenrod. Its inflorescences have up to 30 small yellow flowers that each extrude 10 to 15 stamens. It is distinguished from roadside Missouri goldenrod by its serrated leaves (Pratt, Banner, and Bowns 2013). On one flower, a small 2 mm pink unidentified nymph solider beetle is grazing, and as I rotate the angle of the sunlight, its iridescence changes to lavender. Like yesterday, I again go for a short jog to milepost 1.0 and then back down the Pipeline Trail.

With summer’s heat and the proliferation of leaves, disease and opportunistic parasites arrive. In the first one-third mile, there are numerous Narrowleaf Rocky Mountain cottonwood saplings. One the saplings, something is attacking the leaves. At first glance, their leaves look like locust bean pods that have opened, but on closer inspection, some disease is forcing the leaves to fold back and grow four to five small bean-like pockets on each leaf. The newly grown pockets are open at the bottom. I pry several open, but find only one that has a small 1 mm fully-formed gnat inside. It is not clear whether this is some hatched larvae that forced the leaf to form the pockets or whether the gnat has simply crawled inside for protection. On the Pipeline Trail, a single Gambel’s oak leaf that has about ten small red-orange insect larvae attached to its underside. I mark this for a future check to see what develops.

There are only a few butterflies along the road, but at the seep Horsemint (Agastache urticifolia (Benth.) Kuntze), a.k.a. Nettleleaf Giant Hyssop or Nettleleaf Giant Horsemint with lavender inflorescences has matured. The small stand is covered with about 12 Cabbage white butterflies. In the heat, only a few people are on the quiet road and none are on the trail. I am restored.

As I jog through today’s canyon, I try to clear my mind of all thoughts and just experience the canyon’s nature. Although the benefits are commensurate, the amount of time that each day’s excursion takes is great, and this reduces my engagement with friends and a social life. Some see it as self-absorption, although I view it as centering. At a minimum, the practice of daily nature observation provides a restoration of mental attention and executive functions (April 24th and April 25th). From that renewed and centered emotional strength, a better understanding of the day’s political, social and economic events can be had, and only from a position of understanding can actions be formulated that will not make things worse for oneself or ones friends. But is a Thoreauian daily nature experience of nature just another form of modern narcissism?

Based on my experience visiting the canyon each day for almost a year, it is not. Close observation of nature is about sensitivity to and recognition of subtle biological relationships between plants, animals, geology and weather. That study is undertaken in the spirit of husbandry, since humans are the only beings on the planet with sufficient sentience to willfully modify the environment. There are few better metaphors for preparing oneself for a life moral well-being. It is a form of practice for being sensitive to and understanding human relationships. But its practice is only a sufficient condition to becoming a good person, and it is possible to study nature and biology for a lifetime while ignoring the lessons of interconnectedness that it provides.

* * * *

In dueling articles 2015, Pulitzer Prize winner Kathryn Schulz argued in The New Yorker Magazine that Thoreau did not deserve his literary fame: he was simply a self-absorbed narcissist (Schulz 2015). Essayist Jedediah Purdy responded the following day in The Altantic: Thoreau was engaged in the issue of his day – the abolition of slavery – and however awkward he was socially, he wrangling with moral issues remains an instructive today. Thoreau developed the stream in American thought that community injustice committed against some of its members is an injustice against all members of the community. Purdy notes that like Thoreau in the nineteenth century, life today involves moving in the alienating gray area “between feeling the justice and wrongs of our communities as our own and becoming insensate to them” (id). Thoreau’s method of thoughtful engagement, which grew out of his daily, careful observation of nature, is a good approach for daily life in our complex modern world.

That sense of alienation in a gray area of indecisiveness is magnified in modern culture by our cultural insistence that policy decisions should not be based on human values alone, and that experts should quantify and model issues to guide our selections (April 27th). Our ability to quantify and model reality has increased exponentially still the beginning of the digital industrial age in the 1980s, but this has the effect disempowering ordinary citizens (id). Many of the mathematical models that guide modern society, in particular in economics and commerce, are simply rough guides with little statistical validity, and although such modeling does provide a useful check on often-wrong intuition, they are not replacements for the human-valued centered decision-making of Theoreau’s century (id).

Our increased technological ability to collect enormous amounts of information and to model reality continues the dualism between Plato and Aristotle that set the structure of Western civilization two-thousand years ago. Plato was the ultimate deductionist: he felt that the characteristics of an underlying transcendent reality could be deduced and from inferior models of the everyday world. Artistole was the penultimate observationalist and inductive thinker: he felt that things in the everyday world were ends in and of themselves, and thus, observing and enumerating the infinite variations of natural objects was an end in and of itself. Our modern technological society are simply augmented versions of that duality and of Thoreau’s era. I can view mountains of information about the small 3 by 12 square mile canyon collected from sensors and quickly scan millions of research journals and academic books about its weather, wildlife and plants, but in the end, modern scientific research (and my amateur enjoyment of it) is Aristotelian observation followed by Platonic deduction and modeling. Again (see April 27th), the uncertainty generated by knowing the limits of one’s knowledge and careful decision-making supplemented by consideration of expert scientific opinion are important values, but at times, a Thoreauian sense of community alienation and indecisiveness must be set aside and directions chosen from human-centered values.

This tension between our increasing technological prowess and stifling emotional alienation were known to Thoreau. Norte Dame English professor Walls in the preface to her biography released on Thoreau’s 200th birthday (July 12th) argues that since Thoreau lived at the beginning of the Anthropocene era (April 27th), he was struggling with prospects of future environmental destruction, given the American character and that humanity had begun to modify the nature environment on a continental scale (Walls). Menard notes that early American divided their identity into two parts: a “British” identity that was associated with European industrialization and an “American” identity that was forged from their encounter in the new continent (Menard 2012, 600-602). In Thoreau’s famous essay Walking, he concluded that the American character had been shaped by the nature’s wildnesss. Thoreau argued in his famous statement that “Wildness is the preservation of the world”, that nature is a source of continuing replenishment. As America developed across the Mississippi and into the western United States, it needed to preserve undeveloped wilderness in order to maintain its vigor as a society:

“The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the world. . . . The founders of every State which has risen to eminence have drawn their nourishment and vigor from a similar wild source” (Thoreau 1862, 665).

And societies that over-develop and destroy their wild places lose the ability to replenish their vigor and creativity. He attributes that loss to the end of the Roman Empire:

“It was because the children of the Empire were not suckled by the wolf [their destroyed wildlands] that they were conquered and displaced by the children of the Northern forests who were” (Thoreau 1862, 665).

In Walking, Thoreau predicts that if Americans do not preserve wilderness as they expanded into its western territory, e.g. – the Salt Lake valley in which City Creek Canyon is located, then the American character will degrade and decline into a mere “English” society (Menard, 605, 607-608):

“[Y]et we are so early weaned from her breast to society, to that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man, – a sort of breeding in and in, which produces at most a merely English nobility, a civilization destined to have a speedy limit” (Thoreau 1862, 670).

One-hundred years later and after considerable development of the West, Wallace Stegner in his Wilderness Letter echoed Thoreau’s reasoning. The American character was uniquely shaped by wilderness and to maintain that character, the residual of wild places left by 1960 must be preserved:

“I want to speak for the wilderness idea as something that has helped form our character and that has certainly shaped our history as a people. . . . Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; . . . We need wilderness preserved – as much of it as is still left, and as many kinds – because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed (Stegner 1960, and “wilderness was working on us”).

Thoreau also argued that daily exposure to natural places was necessary for the maintenance of mental health: “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements” (Thoreau 1862, 658). Regular exposure to nature was a condition to well-being: “Will not man grow to greater perfection intellectually as well as physically under these influences?” (id at 664).

Foreshadowing the development since the 1980s of biophilia and attention restoration therapy (April 19th to April 27th), 100 years later after Thoreau, Stegner also concludes that wild places are necessary for our emotional health in light of continuing hyper-development of Western lands:

“One means of sanity is to retain a hold on the natural world, to remain, insofar as we can, good animals. . . . . We simply need that wild country available to us, . . . . For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope” (Stegner 1960).

The history of the early resource exploitation of City Creek’s Canyon and its subsequent preservation as a natural area parallels these tensions and contradictions (March 20th to April 3rd).

* * * *

On July 13th, 2007, a man was robbed by two women who drove him to City Creek. A second man, working with the women, came out of the bushes and robbed the man using a BB gun (Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News, July 14, 2007). On July 13th, 1930, forty school girls hiked up City Creek to Rotary Park (Salt Lake Telegram ). On July 13th, 1912, a large fire was reported to have burned between City Creek and Dry Fork Canyons, and E. H. Clark, Wasatch Supervisor organized a canyon fire patrol (Salt Lake Tribune). On July 13, 1908, thousands of residents escaped high summer heat by going to resorts and to City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On July 13th, 1906, efforts to remove the last industrial facility in lower City Creek Canyon, a rock crusher owned by P.J. Moran, continue (Deseret Evening News).

July 12, 2017

July 10th

Field on a Slope

7:30 p.m. To see other areas where the Cheat grass sea has not yet penetrated, I am jogging up canyon to milepost 2.0. I am also seeking one of the few canyon locations that has a field of cacti. Along the way at the Gambel’s oak forest near mile 0.4, a female American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) drops out from behind the leaves, perches on a large oak branch. It cocks its head, listening to the branch, and then starts tapping it, looking it for insects.

Barney’s Hollow below picnic site 13 begins with fields that climb up to mile 2.3. The fields at milepost 2.0 like the Bonneville Shoreline Nature Preserve are covered with still green native Wild bunchgrass. There are four types of grass in this field, and I am only able to identify the one. The field is interspersed with white-topped weed Hoary cress and Mullein (Verbascum thapsus). At one end of the field, I find the first purple Fireweed (Charmerion angustifolium L.) of the season in the lower canyon. In the high Wasatch, fireweed is usually red.

Above mile 2.3, there is a hanging field of about 15 acres and an inclined nose of about 20 acres on the west side of the canyon. In the spring, the hanging field is covered in thick Kentucky bluegrass and the inclined field above it is covered in native Wild bunchgrass. It is a special place in the canyon below mile 3.4. In the deep winter, Elk using these fields as a transit point to cross the canyon road from Little Black Mountain to the western salient ridgelines. During winter, Wild turkeys also congregate in the oaks below these fields, sometimes in flocks of up to thirty birds, and there winter coyotes attack. They pause in these fields, and there hunters wait during the October and November seasons. Mule deer use this same crossing in the spring. Reaching the hanging field is moderately difficult. The hanging field is hidden behind a step two hundred foot embankment cut by the stream over the last few thousand years. The slope is covered with Cheat grass.

Moving up to mile 2.3, I decide to try a new route up from one of many side gullies along the Pipeline Trail. In a gully heavily shaded by large overhanging oaks, the grass is thick. About every fifteen feet are funnel webs of another non-native – Hobo spiders (Eratigena agrestis). At the bottom of each funnel, there is tunnel, but I have to inspect about 20 nests before I actually see one of the spiders at the mouth of its burrow. It is unclear from the webs what the Hobo spiders are eating, and I suspect their numbers are supported by large House crickets population seen on July 6th. But there are no crickets in the grasses in this small gully.

Eventually, I come to a small seep-pond about four feet in diameter and two feet deep. Western Yellowjacket wasps rest on the surface drinking, and in the wet mud at the side of the pond is the clear massive foot print of a Shira’s moose (Alces alcs shirasi). In the late spring to early summer, single moose are sometimes seen on making their way through the oak forest near the ridgelines or in open fields on the top of Salt Lake salient’s west and east ridges. Shortly after the pond, I am stopped from going forward by thickets of Gambel’s oaks, and am forced to retreat back to the trail and try again by my usual route.

Returning to the trail and going down-canyon for a two-tenths of mile, I work my way up to the hanging valley by the usual route. The field is still thick with green native grasses, but the its soil reveals its source as the ancient mud bed of ancient Lake Bonneville. This slope faces to the south and west, and despite being covered in still growing green grasses, the mud is baked to a cracked solid. Everywhere the tracks of spring mule deer have been hardened into a grey mudstone. The large leaves of spring’s Arrowleaf balsamroot are baked to a golden and dark brown. Like the gully, these fields are also covered in numerous Hobo spider funnel webs. Although covered in native grasses, these fields just beginning to be invaded. I count fourteen Starthistle plants spread widely across both areas. Above the hanging and inclined fields of native grass is a field of Plains prickly pear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha). It is too late in the season for them; their bright red blossoms have past; and the green is draining from their spiked leaves.

As the Sun gets low in the sky, the light turns golden as the grasses wave in a newly risen breeze. A flock of five American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) float over the ridge to the west, slowly circle and descend into woods at Barney’s Hollow on the opposite, south side of the stream. They are settling down for the night. Crows are distinguished from Common ravens (Corvus corax) by their smaller size and square tails. Ravens have diamond-shaped tails and soar on thermals to cross the canyon, but crows flap their wings to power their crossing. Before landing, one crow comes over to inspect me, and finding nothing interesting catches up with its mates.

Coming back downhill, there are several odd three foot diameter distorted purple rocks. They are covered in green and black lichens. The rocks and lichens make their own abstract sculptures.

* * * *

Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on July 10th, 1851, he admires a sunset after a rainstorm. On July 10th, 1852, he notes again the peak of summer heat, and notes that soil has become dry. He sees white lelilot, a clover, in bloom, and he hears huckleberry bird, oven bird and red-eye. St. John’s worts are peaking. On July 10th 1854, he lists song birds active in summer including robin, warbling vireo, song sparrow, flicker, crows, and many others. On July 10, 1856, he finds an owl’s burrow and comes within six feet of a screech owl with its two young. On July 10th, 1860, he sees yellow Pennsylvania sedge grass.

* * * *

On July 10th, 2010, a 59 year old man, who enjoyed bicycling in City Creek Canyon, passed away (Deseret News). On July 10th, 2003, during the celebration of the Boy Scouts 90th anniversary in Utah, the Scouts reported that Irwin Clawson, at the age of 18, started one of the first Boy Scout Troops in Utah in 1911, and his first activity back in 1911 was to take his troop on overnight camping trips up City Creek Canyon (Deseret News).

July 11, 2017

July 9th

Bonneville Shoreline Nature Preserve

2:00 p.m. It is the sixth day of summer heat over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Checking the daily daily jet stream forecast graph at the California Regional Weather Service, the jet northern circumpolar stream has dissipated as usually occurs at summer’s peak (April 4th). The western United States is covered by a massive high pressure zone, and its heat is baking the moisture from the land. Today, in order to see what the Salt Lake salient looked like before the arrival of Cheat grass, I am traveling to one of Salt Lake City’s most unusual nature parks: the Bonneville Shoreline Nature Preserve. To get to the preserve, one drives ten miles north to North Salt Lake City, climbs steeply up through an expensive North Salt Lake City subdivision to North Salt Lake City’s Tunnel Springs Park. The Salt Lake City nature preserve is a hanging valley near the end of the salient that overlooks the Great Salt Lake. It is located three hundred feet above the valley floor, and its vista cuts off views of a major freeway and an industrial area at its base. No mechanized sound penetrates the preserve. This hidden valley is about sixty acres in size, and the City only purchased a conservation easement protecting the land in 2006 (Salt Lake City, 2010b). This valley is the southern terminus of the Salt Lake City Bonneville Shoreline Trail. A popular mountain bike ride starts in City Creek Canyon, goes over the northern half of the Salt Lake salient at the Radio Towers, and ends in this field. Riders then return to Salt Lake City by the paved roads below.

The sky overhead is deep blue even under the high summer sun. The Tunnel Springs Park is an old seep that is now filled in with an invasive, the Common reed (Phragmites australis). A large Willow tree is the centerpiece spring feed glade. To the south of the spring is the City nature preserve. It is an expansive grass land field that is primarily covered in Wild bunchgrass with minor contamination by Winter rye grass. Intermixed with grass are many white Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis L.) flowers. It is nesting and it periodically interrupts its song to momentarily dive into the brush. But it quickly reappears to resume singing. I am treated to a ten minute long concert. The field is similar to the grass fields of Antelope Island out in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. There, great numbers of Western meadowlarks are evenly spaced every few hundred yards.

Significantly, even though it is early July, the native Wild bunchgrass of the field is still green. The light brown Cheat grass sea crawls down to this oasis of native grassland from the surrounding hills, but after a few minutes I can imagine what the Salt Lake salient must have looked like before the invasive grass arrived at the beginning of the twentieth century and the foothills were covered in a cloak of green Wild bunchgrass.

The grass field overlooks the eastern half of the Great Salt Lake and Farmington Bay. Vistas extend to Pilot Peak one-hundred miles away. In the foreground, the eastern half of the lake is a dry lakebed with the remains of the Jordan River winding through it. The view is breathtaking, but this is not a good indicator for the future of the lake. This year’s precipitation in the northern drainages was 150 percent of normal. At the highest peaks of Little Cottonwood Canyon, the snowpack was 200 percent of normal. It is the kind of year that should refill the lake, but that has not occurred.

* * * *

Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on July 9th, 1852 at 4 a.m. in the morning, he sees another aurora borealis, and he listens to bird and cricket chorus as the twilight recedes. He admires the leaves of a shrub oak. He describes the daytime summer heat as “furnace-like”. He sees a red lily. On July 9, 1854, he examines a thistle. On July 9 , 1857, he discusses how black willows disperse their seeds.

* * * *

On July 9th, 1996, Salt Lake City Watershed manager Russ Hone reports conflicts between hikers and mountain bikers in all of the Salt Lake Valley canyon trails, including in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On July 9th, 1996, Chevron Pipeline Co. reports that the proposed Anschutz Ranch East Pipeline through City Creek Canyon is unnecessary because the existing Chevron pipeline along 11th Avenue has sufficient capacity to carry Canadian crude oil projected for the next fifty years (Salt Lake Tribune). On July 9th, 1994, Salt Lake City enacted a complete ban on all fires in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On July 9, 1921, the Young People’s Hebrew Association planned an automobile outing up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On July 9, 1913, the City announced that the improved City Creek automobile boulevard touring road will be opened to the public (Salt Lake Herald). On July 9th, 1904, Joseph R. Dover, who built a marble works in City Creek Canyon and who worked as stonemason on the Mormon Temple, passed away (Salt Lake Telegram).

July 8th

Filed under: Pleasant Valley, Starthistle — canopus56 @ 6:18 pm

Failed Grassland Restoration

4:00 p.m. It is the fifth day of summer heat over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I take a short jog to milepost 1.5. The City’s and Utah Conservation Corps attempted starthistle abatement at lower Pleasant Valley has failed. Their manual pulling and chemical application was initially successful, and their efforts resulted in a lush green field filling in with native grasses (Oct. 12th, Oct. 16th, Feb. 11th, May 17th, May 21st, June 10th). Now the treated field and slopes at lower Pleasant Valley are thickly covered with two foot high starthistle plants (June 16th). This year’s restoration budget to abate 100 acres of starthistle contaminated land in City Creek and Parley’s Canyons is about 86,000 USD (Utah Department of Natural Resources 2017a). A controlled burn may be needed to restore this area, as proposed in 2010, but homeowners adjacent to the canyon are resistant (Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities 2010a).

* * * *

Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on July 8th, 1854, he sees the light of a full Moon reflecting off rippled water, and he hears whippoorwills. He notes that shining rose (Rosa nitida) have completed their bloom. On July 8th, 1857, Thoreau counted the 126 rings in the stump of a sawed off white pine. Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on July 8th, 1858 during a camping trip, he describes summiting a mountain in a cloud. There he is surrounded by white with a blue patch of sky above. He sees snow banks in high mountains. Through July 19th, 1858, he continues his description of his camping trip in New Hampshire mountains.

* * * *

On July 8th, 1998, the Salt Lake Tribune reported on the status of the experimental off-leash dog areas, including up-canyon from Memory Grove in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On July 8, 1903, the National Guard planned a military tactics practice in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On July 8th, 1891, the Red Bird mine, three miles up City Creek Canyon, reported high grade ore strikes in lead, gold and silver (Provo Evening Dispatch).

July 7th

The Cheat Grass Sea and Floods

(Continuation from July 6th). Before me at the Dry Fork pass are two miles of Cheat grass covered foothills that is two feet tall in some places. The cheat grass zone extends for a mile on either side of the ridge, crosses the salient’s ridgeline into City Creek and descends for another one-half mile. It is broken by the City Creek stream. On the western salient, the cheat grass begins again between a few hundred feet and one-half mile from the stream. Here, it is broken by the Gambel’s oak forest and chaparral. Then the cheat grass lands continue continues up and over the ridge to North Salt Lake beyond the west facing slope. For twenty-five minutes, I travel along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail as it winds around gullies and “noses”, and the Cheat grass sea is occasionally interrupted by remnants of native Wild bunchgrass, native Bluebunch wheatgrass and imported Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis). Eventually, the trail reaches the head of Perry’s Hollow, a small one and one-half mile canyon that empties near 11th Avenue above the City Cemetery. Although the heat is pounding, the clear air above the intensifying air pollution of a summer inversion layer clears the soul, and the views of the city and the lake beyond clears the mind.

Naturalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Stegner grew up in part in Salt Lake City. Checking old City Polk’s directories some years ago, I determined that he lived across from Liberty Park on 700 East Street and in his semi-autobiographical “Recapitulation”, he later resided in the Avenues not far from where I live. In his “Sound of Mountain Water,” he recounts his boyhood exploits in Big Cottonwood Canyon eight miles to the south of this pass. I like to imagine that Stegner also wandered the foothills that I jog through today. Although to my knowledge, Stegner never specifically wrote about Cheat grass, he grew up in Salt Lake City as this invasive arrived and took over the foothills. Cheat grass was not introduced into Utah until 1890, and by 1932, dominated in Salt Lake County (June 10th). In his youth, Stegner must have witnessed the cheat grass transformation of these foothills, and at times, I wonder if such experiences forged Stegner’s later resolve to preserve the outdoors.

From the 1920s through the 1960s, a core of Utah botanists and ecologists, including C. L. Forsling at the U.S. Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station in Logan and botany Professor Walter Cottam at University of Utah along with Stegner and Utah’s Bernard DeVoto dedicated themselves to creating a record of this western environmental catastrophe (Flores, 173). The Cheat grass invasion was not limited to Utah and included the other Intermountain states, like Arizona. In the 1960s, Stegner went on to write his famous “Wilderness Letter”, and Stegner and Arizonia Senator Stewart Udall’s key roles in the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act are well known. Both of their youths corresponded with the demise of the western rangelands to the Cheat grass invasion, and this must have been part of their motivation to preserve pockets of pristine lands through the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act. Thus, it may be because of the Cheat grass that infests City Creek Canyon and the ridgeline above the Avenues, that we enjoy the national system of wilderness areas throughout today’s western United States.

Sometime in the future, these Cheat grass lands above the Avenues will burn, and floods will again threaten the homes below, as they have in the past, e.g. – the 1945 Avenues flood (see August 19th, 1945) – in which a three foot wall of water mixed with 300 lb boulders came through the cemetery and down “M” Street in front of my residence (Craddock 1945, Salt Lake Telegram, August 8, 1945). Damage to the City was estimated at 300,000 USD in 1945, or about 4 million USD today. Depending on which part of the ridgeline burns, those cloudburst floods may not have this devastating effect of the 1945. After the 1945 flood, the city erected a flood dam across lower Perry’s Hollow to catch such future flood. An old quarry at 11th Avenue and North Terrace Hills Street was converted into a park, and a sunken soccer field doubles as flood retention basin.

Where did the Cheat grass come from? As discussed below, Utah’s early grazing resource exploitation era of the early 1900s brought the invasive Cheat grass to the state, and as a consequence, the livestock grazing industry bequeathed an annual, perpetual cost of between 20 to 40 million USD to Utah taxpayers in order to fight Cheat grass wildfires. Southern Utah ranchers are a core constituency group of Utah’s Sagebrush Rebellion, a movement that seeks to turn over all federal lands in Utah to state government. By taking title to federal lands, Utah grazing and other resource dependent industries hope to return to an era of higher extraction rates. Their political rhetoric of individualism and free-market economy principles harkens back to their nineteenth century roots. When I hear their arguments in media reports, I can only think of the Cheat grass fields on the ridgelines above City Creek Canyon stream and the 20 to 40 million USD of annual corporate welfare that ranchers receive in free fire suppression services. Through their cattle operator ancestors’ careless thoughtlessness that cost has been moved to Utah taxpayers. In order to understand the western Sagebrush Rebellion, one needs some historical knowledge to put their arguments into perspective. They and their ancestors have already ruined the Utah’s grass lands once before.

Notwithstanding the Cheat grass invasion of the western States, pockets of pristine grasslands remain. “Then and now” matched photographs made by University of Utah graduate student Gary Rogers in 1982 compared with geologist Karl Grove Gilbert’s 1901 photographs show many outlying areas in Utah’s west deserts, including the House Mountains (Rogers, Plate 12), at Fish Springs (Plate 9), in the Dugway Mountains (Plate 8) and east of Grantsville (Plate 5), escaped the Cheat grass invasion (Rogers 1982). The comparison photographs of these outlying areas show unchanged vegetation over an eighty-year period.

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Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on July 7th, 1851, he notes a pause in the blooming of flowering plants and that birds are singing less. He notes how the Moon causes shadows under elms. On July 7th, 1852, he notes loud bird song at 4 a.m. He describes morning dew in a fog and notes many cobwebs on grass. He describes many flowering plants of the summer season.

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Cheat grass on the ridgeline above the City may have played a central role in the Utah’s history and, in part, motivated the passage of of the 1964 Wilderness Act (1985). As explained during the spring on June 10th, cheat grass was not introduced into Utah until 1890, and by 1932, this invasive weed was present in all Utah counties, but was only dominate in Salt Lake County (id). What happened over those forty years to so widely distribute this weed? University of Utah biologist Cottam noted that in the 1940s, there were about 650,000 head of cattle and 3,800,000 head of sheep grazing on Utah rangelands (Cottam 1947, Fig. 1). Retired USDA ecologist Hull summarized the history of Utah ranching. From a maximum of about 9,000 grazing permittees in 1918, livestock grazing permit holders declined to about 5,000 in 1939 following years of extreme drought, and only three permittees had more than 600 head (Hull 1976 at 5). In 1936, the United States Department of Agriculture released its seminal “Western Range Letter” report announcing the virtual collapse of western rangelands from overgrazing in the western United States, including Utah (United States Forest Service 1936). The Report provided the factual basis justifying the passage of the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 that provided for the regulation of grazing on federal lands. But overgrazing since the turn of the century had already led to a cycle of grass fires that allowed the aggressive cheat grass invader to rapidly replace native grasses (Pickford, 1932; Monson and Kitchen, 24). Cheat grass re-burns at a higher frequency (Monson and Kitchen), and this created a feedback loop in which cattle would overgraze, cheat grass would be established and quickly burn, cattle would be driven to other allotments, and cheat grass completely replaces native grasses in expanding burn areas (Rogers 1982). The consequence today is that cheat grass dominates much of the state’s grasslands, including the ridgelines of the Salt Lake salient and its slopes leading down to City Creek Canyon’s stream.

Where Cheat grass overruns foothills and lowlands and then burns, rainfall runoff can increase by 9 to 100 percent, and this transports great mount of sediments to the valley floors that settle into sheets three feet deep (Nicoli and Lundeen 2016, Craddock 1945). Where overgrazing and invasive grasses occurred at the headwaters of the Wasatch Front Mountain Range canyons, fires are followed by similar increases in run-off that historically have sent great waves of flood waters and mud flows into cities at a canyon’s base (Hull 1976, Cottam 1947, Honker 1994, Honker 1999). Early Mormon settlers did not understand these relationship between overgrazing, fire, and floods, and by 1930, thirteen early Mormon towns were destroyed and may have been abandoned due to such overgrazing and fire induced flooding (Flores 1985 at 171). Utah overgrazing also caused desertification. Over 7,000 cattle were grazed in the Tooele valley during the early 1900s, within a few years, the valley was quickly denuded, and in the 1930s, after Tooele valley turned into the nation’s only dustbowl west of the midwest, the Soil Conservation Service speculated that the town of Grantsville would have to be abandoned (Flores, 172). After a large 2008 grass fire in Skull Valley west of Salt Lake City, created at 3 foot high alluvial fan (Nicoli and Lundeen). The greatest economic impact of the Cheat grass invasion has been on the sheep industry. Sheep stocks are presently only 10 percent of their peak in the 1930, and although cattle levels remain at historic levels, available permitted lands are greatly restricted. The cycle of historical overgrazing, Cheat grass invasion, Cheat grass fire, and subsequent flood also damages Salt Lake City.

The August 7th, 1945 cloudburst flood that ran down Perry’s Hollow and through the Avenues is exemplar of a western fire and cloudburst flood. Such floods caused by the concurrence of two two rare events – an earlier Cheat grass fire that denudes the foothills followed by an unusually severe summer cloudburst rain storm over the denuded area. The first element is fire. There have been many fires over 100 acres in size over the last 100 years either in City Creek or on the Avenues ridgeline. On July 29, 2008, 180 acres burned in lower City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune and KSL, July 31st, 2008). On July 22nd, 1992, 150 acres burned on the Avenues-City Creek ridge near Tomahawk Drive (Salt Lake Tribune, July 23, 1992). A series of July 7, 1953 photographs at the University of Utah Digital Archives collection shows a fire in the 50 acre range under Ensign Peak. On July 2nd, 1951, a forest fire “covering a wide area” raged in City Creek Canyon for three to four miles above the Salt Capitol building (Salt Lake Telegram). In 1944, the near 400 acre grass fire in Perry’s Hollow preceded the 1945 flood. On July 13th, 1912 Salt Lake Tribune reported a large fire burned between City Creek and Dry Fork Canyons. The August 20, 1898, Salt Lake Tribune reported a fifteen square mile fire that swept up City Creek towards Bountiful. Craddock described state of Perry’s Hollow after the 1945 grass fire and flood, citing the historical pattern of overgrazing that led to the Cheat grass invasion of Salt Lake’s foothills (Craddock at 58):

Inspection of the flood-producing watersheds revealed the plant cover to be in a seriously deteriorated condition notwithstanding many years of protection from livestock grazing and conscientious attempts to control fires. Three stages of impairment were observed.

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Roughly 10 percent of the watershed – including extensive slopes in the lower portion of the basins and parts of the ridge tops, roads, and mined areas – are virtually devoid of vegetation and litter as a result of grazing abuse in earlier years, old and new mining activity, and both old and recent fires.

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Fully 80 percent of the area, including all but patches of headwater slopes and portions of lower benchlands, was burned last fall. This fire killed many of the native bunchgrasses which had reinvaded the area since its closure to grazing (Craddock at 58).

The second element is cloudburst rain: With respect to Perry’s Hollow and the fall of 1944, USDA forester George Craddock estimated that about 300 acres of 388 acres in Perry’s Hollow burned (Craddock 1945, Salt Lake Telegram Aug. 8, 1945), and when coupled with a severe cloudburst storm that deposited 3.5 inches of rain in 15 minutes in the summer of 1945 (Craddock 1945), a three foot wall of water came down M Street (Salt Lake City Telegram, August 8, 1945). An incredible 2,400 cubic feet per second came out of Perry’s Hollow in 1945 (Craddock). In comparison, the 1983 snowmelt flood of City Creek peaked at 331 cubic feet per second. Craddock estimated that in 1945, runoff from East and West Valley View Canyons (at the top of North Terrace Drive) that did not burn did not show any increased runoff.

In a 1946 report on northern Utah cloudburst floods issued in response to the Perry’s Hollow flood, Wooley listed numerous cloudbursts that flooded the City through the Avenues, from City Creek Canyon, and along the west-facing Salt Lake salient north of the City (Wooley 1946). Summer cloudburst floods included: June 13th, 1854 (city streets flooded), September 11th, 1864 (heavy flooding of North Temple from City Creek), August 25th, 1872 (downtown flooded), July 23, 1874 (downtown flooded from City Creek), August 1, 1874 (Lindsey Gardens areas flooded as in 1945), August 8, 1884 (North Temple flooded from City Creek), July 26, 1893 (cloudburst flooded basements in city), July 19, 1912 (1 inch feel in 1 hour filling South Temple with sand and mud from above), July 25, 1916 (cloudburst sent 10 foot wall of water into city along with mud, boulders and cattle), July 30, 1930 (cloudburst over Emigration, Red Butte, and Parley’s Canyons washes out highway north of Salt Lake and washes away three homes with damages of $500,000), August 13, 1931 (Four to 12 inches of water swept through streets and 12 feet of debris washed over road near Beck Hot Springs).

Once established, it is almost impossible to restore Cheat grass infested lands to their original state (Monson and Kitchen 1992). Partial restoration can be achieved with great effort and expense (Monson and Kitchen 1992, Pellant 1996). The land must be burned, disced to twelve inches in depth, chemically treated, and then reseeded with native grasses (Pellant 1996, Young and Clements 2009 at Chaps. 10-12). Remediation is generally restricted to flat lands where disc equipped tractors can be run, but the discing operation has been done experimentally on slopes of thirty degrees in inclination (Monson and Kitchen 1992). Retired USDA researcher Hull complains that conversation groups do not understand the economic value of grasslands and the need to restore grasslands using chemicals (Hull 1976 at 19). Professional land managers Young and Clements assert that herbicides and reseeding have successfully resorted western Cheat grass infested lands, but they claim that Congress refuses to expend funds necessary to chemically restore the rangelands due to pressure from environmental groups (Young and Clements at 178).

In 2015, there were about 780,000 cattle and 285,000 sheep in Utah, or about one-fourth the level reported by Cottam in 1947 (Utah Department of Agriculture and Food 2016 at 46). In 2012, Utah had 3,412 cattle operators and 2,838 beef operators, although the overlap between these two groups is not known (id, 45). In 2014, Utah’s agriculture production and processing sectors directly and indirectly contribute about 15 percent of the state’s gross state product, or 21 billion USD out of a total gross state product of 140 billion USD (Ward 2016). Direct cash receipts from raising cattle was about 750 million USD (id), and the manner in which sector analysis is reported prevents allocating a portion of related direct and indirect economic activity from that cattle production annual sales of 750 million USD (less than 0.5 percent of state GSP) to the 21 billion USD of activity for the entire sector. Prorating total direct and indirect economic impact to the 21,000 directly or indirectly employed in beef production (Ward) suggests that approximately 6,300 persons (750M/21B x 21,000) are directly or indirectly employed in cattle and beef production, again a small fraction of Utah’s total laborers.

With respect to the public costs of Cheat grass, based on a 2013 estimate, the State of Utah and the federal government spend 83 million USD per year fighting wildfires in Utah (see June 10th; Stambro et al, 2014, Chap. 9). Although the percentage of those expenditures that could be avoided if native grasses had not been supplanted by fast-cycling and hot-burning Cheat grass, fifty percent seems a reasonable working estimate. Utah’s grazing resource exploitation era of the early twentieth bequeathed an annual and perpetual legacy of, for first-order discussion purposes, of between 20 to 40 million USD.

There was another unexpected environmental change, which might be counted as either a public cost or benefit, depending on one’s point-of-view. On their 1847 arrival in Utah, the Euro-American colonists found massive populations of now extinct Rocky Mountain locusts (Melanoplus spretus) (March 6th). The locust infestations continuing until the turn of the century, but the locust’s population’s disappearance coincides with the massive cattle grazing operations begun in the 1870s. The modification of Utah’s rangeland habitat is a likely causal factor in the locust’s extinction.

Cattle operators have disproportionate political power in the state. As part of gerrymandering in Utah in 1980s, pie-shaped districts were created that radiate from the urban core in downtown Salt Lake City to rural ranching areas in southern Utah (Daley 2016). The United States congressional district that I reside in encompasses cattle operators in Blanding the southeast corner of the state, but my neighbors who live a few miles away, share another congressional district that includes ranchers outside of St. George, Utah in the southwest corner of the state. The purpose of this gerrymandering was to dilute Democratic voters and assure that ultra-conservative, hyper free-market views dominate Utah’s political power (see Daley). Southern Utah ranchers have long been a vocal minority behind the “Sagebrush Rebellion” that seeks to transfer all federal lands in Utah to state control (Flores, 173 and n. 49), and legislation to affect that transfer periodically resurfaces, e.g. – Utah Senator Orin Hatch in 1980 and the state’s 2012 Utah Transfer of Public Lands Act (Utah Code Ann. Secs. 63L-6-101 et seq., Deseret News, March 6th, 2017). Elite Utah urban politicians often rely on southern Utah ranchers and their complaints about grazing regulations as a cultural symbol of some supposed past golden-age in which markets and individual rights operated free of alleged over-reaching governmental rules.

In response to ranchers’ needs to continually expand operations and the increasing expense of fighting rural fires, the State has adopted a catastrophic wildfire reduction strategy (Utah Department of Agriculture and Food 2013). Utah’s Department of Natural Resources funds demonstration projects to rehabilitate grazing lands with natives when invasive grass caused range fires occur. Typically, rehabilitation occurs in southwestern Utah fire-burned areas and at the interface between the cheat grass ocean and newly expanding residential subdivisions.

For Brian Head, Utah, wildfire abatement came to late. In 2013, the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands and Iron County submitted a 10 million USD proposal to treat 8,875 acres (approx. 1,125 USD per acre) to the Department of Agriculture and Food, and thus, to create a one-half mile wildfire-protection buffer around that ski town (Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands and Iron County, 2013). In June 2017, a homeowner, who attempted to clear fire prone grasses around his cabin using a private burn, started a fire that consumed 72,000 acres (Cedar City Spectrum, July 11th, 2017).

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On July 7, 1953, the west side of Ensign Peak burned in a grass fire covering approximately 20 acres (Porschatis 1953). In an editorial dated July 7, 1889, the Salt Lake Herald opposed an order by the District Court compelling the City to dispose of surplus land on the dry North Bench, the present day Avenues, even though the land will not include water rights (Salt Lake Herald).

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