Chris Conte, associate professor of history at Utah State University, recently led a group of undergraduates off campus and into Green Canyon to better understand how the people of Cache County have shaped the landscape since its settlement. He wanted to find out how Green Canyon has been used in the past in order to help preserve it for the future.
“The canyon is a mainstay of the people of Logan,” Conte said. “They have been using it for 100 years, and only one reason is recreational.”
Students in his Environmental History class collected the oral history of Green Canyon from North Logan residents, examined artifacts from a 1940s archaeological dig, reviewed historical surveys conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, and analyzed the area using typographical mapping. They will share their findings with the community Feb. 8 at the North Logan Library and open the floor for discussion afterward.
“A lot of people have very different opinions about how the canyon should be used,” Conte said. “We hope to learn more from the audience. We hope to follow up in subsequent courses.”
Much of the changes the students recorded are the result of intensive water and land usage from when Green Canyon was a site for sheep and cattle grazing, logging and stone excavation. To this day the canyon supplies much of the water for the city. However, the dropping water table has impacted the plant life able to thrive in the region, Conte said.
“Parts of the canyon are like a ghost forest,” he said. “I study Africa and I try to read landscapes, how they have changed due to culture and nature. You can see vestiges of the past in the landscape, especially the vegetation.”
Conte’s students examined how Native American groups utilized the canyon and consulted experts of native plant species to determine how the ecology has changed. Jason Folkman, a senior majoring in history and geography, looked at the human history, studying activities in the Wellsville Mountains and surrounding areas. Folkman himself grew up in Logan but never knew its history.
“I always kind of wrote it off,” he said.
Throughout the course he learned a little more about his own backyard. In the fall, the class took trips to the canyon, exploring the now dry riverbed and learned about the conflicts between users such as campers, bikers, hikers and motorists. They saw the impact humans have had on the landscape.
“The canyon you see today is the product of hundreds of years of change,” Folkman said.
“The trees that you see were selected by loggers and conservationists,” he said. “ I learned to appreciate how much the environment has changed. The canyon has been beat up a lot in the past. In a lot of ways it is healthier than it used to be, but there is definitely room for improvement.”
Findings will be highlighted in a talk Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. in the North Logan Library. Students will speak to issues of intensive water and land use, the canyon’s health and its chances for longevity. For more information contact Kristen Munson, public relations specialist at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at 435-797-0267.
Writer: Kristen Munson, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, (435) 797-0267, email@example.com
Contact: Chris Conte, (435) 435-797-1303, firstname.lastname@example.org