grand canyon

The Grand Canyon didn’t start out so grand. It took the erosive process millions of years to carve out the awesomeness we see today and the process continues.

As a conservationist, one word generates negative vibes for me. Thoughtless human-caused erosion almost always wreaks havoc in the environment, and this is usually the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word, erosion.

However, there is another side to erosion, an awesome creative side. Natural erosion, surface processes that remove soil, rock, or dissolved material from one location and transport it to another location where it is deposited, is a normal process, one that has played an incalculable role in the world we see around us today. It is a slow and relentless progression still occurring now. For instance, today, the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina are tree covered slopes, round-topped and accessible to any hiker. Long ago, though, they were as rugged, steep and tall as the Tetons are today. In the intervening 200 to 300 million years, erosion has carved, shaped, rearranged and smoothed these mountains into their current form. The same thing is happening to the Tetons right now.

Many of our national parks, lands of exceptional scenic beauty, are that way because of erosion. When you gaze into the depths of the Grand Canyon, marvel at the spires of Bryce or the hoodoos of Badlands, wander through slot canyons in Canyonlands or admire the sandstone bridges in Arches, these are all a direct result of erosion.

Erosion just doesn’t form national parks though. Any canyon you care to go hiking in was formed, shaped or deepened through erosion, whether by water, glaciers, wind or all three. And, all this soil and rock had to go somewhere, so the valleys that we live in and the soil that we plow up to plant potatoes and alfalfa in are at least partially a result of erosion. Floodplains, deltas and alluvial fans are also built from erosion.

Recently, I stood on a beach in Oregon, marveling at the millions of fist-sized pieces of basalt on the beach. Normally, basalt is rough textured, but these black rocks were small and rounded, polished as smooth as an apple. In time, they will become the sand that lines the rest of the shore, all through the process of erosion.

This same thing happened when Lake Bonneville burst through Red Rock Pass near Preston, Idaho over 15,000 years ago. Huge chunks of basalt were peeled from cliffs near Inkom and within a few miles of tumbling in that incredible surge had become smooth round boulders. These boulders are spread from Pocatello to Marsing, near Nampa, and are called melon gravels.

Erosion unveils as much as it creates. I well recall marveling at a petrified forest near Boulder, Utah along the Burr Trail. The logs of these huge trees were jutting out from the bottom of a tall hill. Millions of years ago, this was a tropical forest. Things changed and the forest died and was slowly covered up, until a huge formation, hundreds of feet deep, sat on top of it. Then things changed again and erosion began to eat away at the hills, eventually removing enough of them so that the forest was once again revealed, this time in a geologic rather than a biologic state.

In our personal lives we face erosion as well. Sometimes, under pressure, character erodes, and reveals some of our unsavory personality failings. We may see physical and mental capacities wear away, leaving us seemingly less than we were. But sometimes, as the winds and waves buffet and batter us with their impersonal, cold and relentless power, a magic happens. We find there is granite at our core, ready to be smoothed, polished and shaped instead of destroyed. New talents, strengths, charms and insights are unearthed that would have been forever hidden without the steady exposure to the piercing winds and raging waters of life to expose and perfect them.       

Help Idaho Wildlife

When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

And tell them that you heard about it from!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho