Date of Award:

2013

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

History

Advisor/Chair:

Christopher Conte

Abstract

The study of environmental history suggests that nature and culture change all the time, but that the rate and scale of such change can vary enormously. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Anglo settlement in the American West transformed landscapes and ecologies, creating new and complex environmental problems. This transformation was particularly impressive in Cache Valley, Utah's Bear River Range. From 1860 to 1910, Mormon settlers overused or misused the Bear River Range's lumber, grazing forage, wild game, and water resources and introduced invasive plant and animal species throughout the area. By the turn of the 20th century, broad overuse of natural resources caused rivers originating in the Bear River Range to decline. To address the water shortage, a small group of conservation-minded intellectuals and businessmen in Cache Valley persuaded local stockmen and farmers to support the creation of the Logan Forest Reserve in 1903. From 1903 to1910, forest managers and forest users attempted to restore the utility of the landscape (i.e., bring back forage and improve watershed conditions) however, they quickly discovered that the landscape had changed too much; nature would not cooperate with their human-imposed restoration timelines and desires for greater profit margins. Keeping in mind the impressive rate and scale of environmental decline, this thesis tells the heretofore untold environmental history of the Bear River Range from 1860 to 1910. It engages this history from an ecological and social perspective by (1) exploring how Mormon settlers altered the landscape ecology of the Bear River Range and (2) discussing the reasons why forest managers and forest users failed to quickly restore profitability to the mountain landscape from 1903-1910. As its value, a study of the Bear River Range offers an intimate case study of environmental decline and attempted restoration in the western United States, and is a reminder of how sensitive our mountain ranges really are.

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