Are you a June Sucker?

Does the thought of fresh mountain creek water make you want to spawn in the summer? Would you like to see water as healthy as Wasatch Front mountain creek water enter and exit the jewel of our region - Utah Lake - and stay pure all the way to the Great Salt Lake? If this vision sends ripples down your scales, you just might be able to label yourself a June Sucker, or at least a citizen of June Sucker Nation.

At Bioneers today, people seemed to take to the idea of June Sucker Nation... Not surprising as it was at last years Bioneers conference when the Salmon Nation project (a major inspiration) was presented to us by Paul Hawken and Spencer Beebe.

So to any resident of the Jordan River-Utah Lake watershed reading this, we would love to hear your input. What do you think of the idea of June Sucker Nation? How can we build a coalition of Bioneers around the whole organism of our watershed, our "Basin of Relations"?

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Permaculture Principle Highlight

Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback
The sins of the fathers are visited on the children unto the seventh generation

For blog action day I want to encourage everyone that reads this to take some time to consider energy.
What forms does energy take? Where does it come from? How do we use it? How do we take it for granted? How can we reduce our use to what is appropriate? After we use it is it reusable or does it create pollution? How can we preserve it to be used by the 7th generation beyond our own?

The first step is to find out how you compare to the average citizen of June Sucker Nation in terms of CO2 emissions. 29 tons. Start with ZeroFootprint.net, where you can also get some feedback to act on.

To read more about my journey in this area, JUMP!


29 Tons

This news just in. Utah residents enjoy being at the top of the barrel of carbon emissions producers in the country! That puts us on a par with the 4th most polluting nation in the world, not bad when our neighbors in the Union only rank 10th out of 208 on average.

We pay the price for it too, those of us living by the Wasatch Front benefit from the life expectancy of the average chain smoker. That's a two year advance from the coffin department, plus bonus health care bills from your inhalatorily challenged lungs. Children do especially poorly with the acute particulate matter pollution we regularly experience here during inversions.

Particulate matter isn't something you can hide from. Even the best filters in the most sealed houses let slip the finest of particulate matter - which is what does your lungs the most penetrating harm.

Evading an inversion by absconding within your home is actually a good portion of what is causing the pollution (in the range of 18-37% of it)- although it doesn't have to be that way.

Electricity is 37% of our bane. Fluorescents! Wind Power! No to the 14 planned Coal Plants in our region! Energy Star! Photovoltaics!

Residential and commercial fossil fuels (natural gas) is 18%. Programmable thermostats! More insulation! Get a smaller house dammit!

Transportation! Oh our insatiable thirst for the appearance of individuality! 25%! Bike! Bipede! Telecommute! Publicly Transit!

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN during the next inversion if we bundled up, turned our thermostats all the way down, got out of our cars, turned off all of the lights, stepped into the thick air and collectively willed it to CEASE?

...Well the coal plants might still burn for other regions' lights, but hell, that's only 37% of the problem, and if you don't change your direction you'll get where you're headed.


Utah Valley

From up on the mountain, Utah Valley currently looks something like this:

Not that long ago the valley looked like this:

This is a photograph from historian D. Robert Carter's collection. It was labeled "State Mental Hospital". Which I believe you can see when you follow the rough line of structures and trees that mark the beginnings of Center Street. The hospital was one of the first buildings in Provo. If you visit their lovely grounds today you'll see a large plot that has never been touched. You'll also see a lot of deer and an apple orchard.

I daydream about stepping into the above picture and running around the landscape, especially around the river with its many unchecked braided channels...the foothills...and the canyons...breathtaking! I love everything about every inch. I want to know the memories the pre-pioneer valley once held-- to which we have scant access.

And while I've cathected with the cityscape that now covers the valley (so many good times!) I wonder what it would be like to "wipe our slate clean" and start over. What design choices would we make differently?

Protecting the lake from carp would be high on my list. Encouraging quaint locally owned shops and discouraging franchises, strip malls, and big box stores would be a priority as well. NOT tearing down old homes to make way for cheap apartments would be another. AND I wish we had kept the train/trolley tracks we used to have in downtown Provo. Because, HOW COOL WAS THAT!

There are city planning decisions still being made all the time. In many ways we are wising up! But PLEASE Provo leaders, don't build a bigger airport, we have enough pollution as it is. We don't need to add jet fuel emissions. And please SAY NO to a dike toll road that would span Utah Lake. Kindly heed the ecological studies over the excitement of unfettered growth.

I've repeatedly tried to leave this valley (where I was born). I take off but always return. I'm tethered to this place with a strange awe and reverence. No matter where I roam I feel the land's magical pull. In loyalty I need to give it something in return for what it's given me.


Re-Perceiving Our Borders

Below is a map of the watershed comprising June Sucker Nation, sometimes called the Utah Lake - Jordan River Watershed, showing its topography, border, waterways and water-bodies.

In the map below, you can see that our watershed comprises two major climate regions. Above the line delineating the Wasatch Front lies the cold-temperate alpine region. Below that line lies the semi-arid savannah climate region. The overlap of these regions is not precise and the transition is called an eco-tone. In this case, a "humid-continental" climate is created in the transition, where we see temperate wetlands and more fertile valleys than we see west of our watershed perimeter in the savannahs of the Great Basin.
Also illustrated is the known historical habitat and range of the June Sucker, lying at the heart of the watershed and overlapping each of its 5 sub-basins.

Does your community lie within these boundaries? Does the way we live reflect the renewable resources of sun, wind, water, and biomass available to us within this region? Do we aid and facilitate or inhibit and hamper natural regenerative forces? Do we live with ecology and natural systems in mind?

What would our culture look like it we redesigned our lives to equitably use and share the abundance provided by the whole systems of our watershed: from the top to bottom; source to sink; mountain ridges to Great Salt Lake; forests to wetlands? And what kind of a transition would we have that be? Permaculturalist David Holmgren has envisioned it as potentially a "graceful descent".


A Revolution in Political Consciousness

I split the trip up into three days. Day one took me from my home in Provo, Utah to San Francisco, where I stayed with a friend who lives in the city. Day two, I traveled from San Francisco—crossing the golden gate bridge on my way out of the city—to Arcata, where I stopped at an ex-girlfriend’s family cabin near the sea. I’m now on day three, in the middle of Redwood National Park between Arcata and Cottage Grove, Oregon where I will be spending the next two months as an intern at a small intentional community called Aprovecho Education Center. I wind and wane through sun sparkled and shade darkened corridors of green shaggy moss that repel from old growth Redwood trees. Clusters of ferns nestle up to their massive trunks and listen to the wind whisper through ancient branches.

It occurs to me. I am driving through a museum. A place set aside from intensive clear cuts and cancerous urbanism that rage only a few miles away in any direction. The rode was perhaps bored deliberately through the forest to reassure travelers and tourists that the system we are immersed in is working; that although we may be wreaking havoc in other spheres, this one was safe, true, “wild.” But maybe it simply reinforces the myth we tell ourselves over and over when we come to worship in these sacred groves; a myth that goes something like this: we are advanced humans, we are separate from nature, it is ours, we act as its benevolent protector, and whenever we preserve swaths of old growth forest and plaque them with names we are acting altruistically because these trees could certainly be converted into cash, the life blood of our economy. But we preserve them so that we have places to come and marvel at the nature we control, and because our strong economy gives us the privilege of doing so. This sad narrative means that nature’s primary value in its natural state is aesthetic, not as a support system and community.

I pull the car into a turnout and crunch onto the shoulder’s course gravel; my back bends as I stare upwards. I can barely make out the points of trees that make up the canopy. The lumpy forest floor is teaming with electric green life. I pick up a clump of green moss and moist soil and think to myself—I am a stranger here, a visitor, a tourist. The forest, though visible in form is invisible in function. I enter with no knowledge of its complex cycles or processes, its motion and change. It is inert, still, a painting on the wall that I am eager to capture with my camera for nostalgia, a mass of raw materials for my use and enjoyment but instead of being turned into toothpicks, this forest it is nothing more than a screen on my television or my passing car window that earns sighs and wonder and is then quickly forgotten, when we change the channel.

We destroy one part of the land for profit, and abandon another for aesthetics.

As I sway with the tight curves of the road that weaves its way though shaded asphalt and rugged coast line, my mind wanders. Is it foolish for me to wish that all forests looked this beautiful and supported flourishing human communities? Large corporations and their benefactor the state own millions of acres that could be under community control; communities that not only depend on the forest for their livelihoods, but see in the forest more than raw materials for conversion into cash and calories, they see it as part of their community. I imagine a small militia of men, women and children saying “ya basta” like the Zapatistas of Chiapas, Mexico, to the corporations that treat these majestic trees like corn and wheat. Not a cohort of ex-urban hippies like me, but people who truly understand the life and death struggle we are facing globally and locally. A humble band of poor, uneducated of indigenous peoples and white folk who decide to expropriate the forests from the tight fists of power, while huddled around clandestine camp fires, safe in the bosom of the forest. I chuckle to myself at the absurd romance of the thought and what a poor revolutionary I would make. I am afraid of violence in even the smallest doses, and the expropriation of a corporate owned forest would surly illicit a violent response, especially if we were armed, would they use napalm and destroy the forests further? Or would they surrender the land to the humble demands of community control and autonomy? The day dream is exciting to me and I readjust myself in the driver’s seat smiling to myself. The headlines, the electricity in the air of doing something so radical in a country so bogged down in the lies it tells itself. What if we could do it non-violently, I mean the Zapatistas don’t even carry real guns anymore. Expropriation…is that what it’s going to take to save the forests? Am I willing to fight? Is it even possible to make such changes through the system? If so I am certainly willing to try…

I squat near a chopping block; smoke from the wood cooking stoves in the outdoor kitchen wafts and fades in the afternoon breeze. Today is my small group’s turn to cook the evening meal and I am chopping small pieces of wood to feed the fire boxes. As I chop and stack in mechanical motions, my mind and body begin to synchronize. I have been at Aprovecho Education Center for about a week as an intern and my soul is already full. My surroundings are pristine, not in the sense of a wild untamed nature, but because I am surrounded by a humanity that isn’t afraid of putting down roots. I am living briefly in what may be humanity’s natural habitat. Small groups of kin and friends, who cook for each other, work together, love and take care for each other, and make decisions collectively. We take our sustenance from gardens and the surrounding forests, build our homes from local materials and take responsibility for our waste. Yes, we even compost our feces here. It is not whisked away out of site and mind with one sterile flush, it stays with us and we are forced to deal with it. A strange idea at first, but one that relates to the root problems of modern society: dislocation from our bodies and the earth, and action without responsibility.

As I write these words, I am looking my dorm room window at the gardens, and the hornets that rise and descend from the roof. I am recounting these recent life experiences because I believe the time has come to shift our consciousness, our loyalties. Our cultural, political and economic institutions are at the breaking point and with the increasing scarcity of fossil fuel energy, may become obsolete. If we are to survive as a species, and if we are to continue to improve the quality of life for future generations, we must begin dismantling the systems of economic and political tyranny that are destroying the earth and its people. Paying attention to our bioregion is one way in which we can begin this transition. A bioregion can be defined in a number of ways, but the June Sucker Nation Refers to a very small region where the June Sucker flourishes, specifically the Utah Lake area and its tributaries. Our watershed is the most precious gift we have been given as earth stewards, and a gift that we must pass on to our children. As citizens of June Sucker Nation, it is our duty to ensure the health and security of our water source and the biotic community we share it with. This may mean limiting urban growth, planting trees, designating protection of riparian zones, and creating citizen-based watershed councils. But above all it means shifting our consciousness from that of state and national patriotism, to local and biological citizenship and stewardship.

As the lines on our maps begin to shift away from arbitrary political borders toward boundaries that make ecological sense, we will begin to revitalize our local political institutions with decisions that make sense at a local level. In this type of world, letting Wal-Mart into our community would be unthinkable due to its effect on our friends and neighbors with whom we interact and do business. Large, poorly planned, car-dependant, housing developments will seem ludicrous in the face of oil scarcity and the impending loss of farm land we will need to produce our food. The concept of Bioregional living is of course not new, it has been the underlying logic in most indigenous communities. For example, the native peoples of this region would never have damned the Provo River, because they depended on the annual rejuvenation of native fish species for their sustenance. But settlers to this region dammed it, and the fish died off in mass because their aim was not survival, but profit.

Though a total revolution of political consciousness may be our final goal, we can start much more simply by reading and understanding the history of our watersheds, our rivers, and our biotic communities. How many endangered species are there in our backyards? How can I create a favorable environment for native plant and animal species? What sorts of things can we do to ensure that the June Sucker continues to spawn naturally without the intervention of scientists? Where does my food come from? How much of my food can I reasonably produce on my property? Do I really need two cars? One? What are the mountains called around my house? Do I need the government to tell me that it’s not good to litter or dump motor oil in the drain? As we begin to ask ourselves these questions, our ability to act as free and creative human beings will coincide with the increased health of the ecosystem. Bioregionalism is not mandating change; it is working toward a “permanent culture”, creating it from the grass-roots and empowering communities to make their own decisions with the perspective that we are not nature’s masters but its brothers and sisters.

The Tools of the Transition

The shift in collective consciousness in relating to the landscape we live in as a web of life rather than lines on a map or scenery behind our routes from home to work is our goal. And beyond that, re-thinking and re-designing the way we, humans, interact with the intertwining magnificent chaos that is the natural world and humanity in it in a way that allows throngs of life systems and cultures to persist and thrive long into the future.

For inspiration, empowerment, and guidance we look to Permaculture Design, Earth Democracy, and Participatory Democracy in our quest towards re-Bioregionalisation, re-Localization, and the establishment of ethical or integrous humane and ecological community.

We hope that the links to the right serve as a portal for the dissemination of critical knowledge and awareness of action in the above mentioned areas, aiding June Sucker Nation to shift from a path of degeneration towards one of regeneration.



In the following relation of the history of June Sucker Nation, it is not my intent to vilify or victimize either of the cultures involved. What we witness here in our history is evidence of expansion due to population growth resulting from rising availability of energy. This resulted in increased competition for resources. The way this competition was handled was extremely unfortunate and at times inexplicably tragic; as is the way in which we as a culture have managed the continuously rising amounts of energy available to us. Humanity is currently approaching the other side of the bell curve of energy availability: energy descent. In the wake of energy ascent is often left a cultural wasteland but out of that chaos, we need to redesign how we relate to our immediate natural resources.

The Timpanogots (spelled various ways but said to be pronounced Tumpanuwach or something similar) were the primary inhabitants of the fertile region we call June Sucker Nation, pre european colonization. The fertility of the grasslands, forested rivers, canyons and mountainlands, and the lake with its teeming fish were not missed by the Spanish explorers, French, English and American trappers or the U.S. surveyor John Fremont. Drawn to the rumored abundance of the "Uwtah" Lake & Valley but relegated to the Salt Lake Valley because of the natives' formidability and the absence of their presence in the less fertile area in the North, Mormon settlers cautiously approached colonizing the valley.

The Ute Nation's people, who lived also in regions to the east and south of June Sucker Nation, in the Uintah and Sanpitch regions among others, gathered in great numbers around the lake in June of every year - spawning time of the "Pah-gar" or sucker. The fish were so abundant and thick in the river that they could be knocked out of the water with bare hands. It was a time for trading, games, wrestling and for the Utes to enjoy the company of their people from other regions, not to mention a time to stock up on fish, their primary food source which could also be dried and stored.

Not quite 2 years after the Mormon's arrival in Salt Lake, 1 year after their settlement of Utah Valley, the Timpanogots were all but exterminated after conflicts with their new competition arose. Mormon leaders desired the land for its resources and its strategic location for opening a road for settlements further south and gave the Utes the option of extermination or peaceably surrendering their land.

In the initial battle of Provo River, led by a large militia from Salt Lake on Feb 9-10, 1849, an unknown number of warriors and women were killed in the Ute village which was said to number about 70 warriors. Numbers of women and children were unknown. Of those that fled the village 15 to 20 women and children survived the massacre on West Mountain on Valentine's Day of 1849, their husbands and fathers (between 14 and 30 in number) were captured, shot at point blank, and were later decapitated for scientific study. The other portion of the village, fleeing up the "House of God" (Rock Canyon) suffered a siege, measles, exposure and a skirmish, and were survived by 8 men, 6 women and 7 children who made snowshoes to escape into Provo Canyon through the mountain pass despite heavy snows. One Mormon Utah Valley militiaman died.

In attempting to re-localize to our bioregion, it is important that we look to the people who stewarded this region and the Pah-gar, or June Sucker, for at least 600 years. After 150 years of colonization their culture, their language, their knowledge of the natural systems and pattern languages of this watershed, may very well be gone. The fish which they harvested and stewarded have largely gone with them - either extinct or very close to it.

I propose that we create a movement to recover and understand what we can of their culture, their place names, names of creatures and natural processes, and use that to redesign how we perceive our watershed. And I propose that we create:
A commemorative event of the massacre put upon them on Valentines Day;
As well as a Pah-gar Festival in June, to convene upon and confer about how we can recover the June Sucker's severely dwindled population and create a paradigm of abundance/regeneration of natural resources and land stewardship in memory of the Tumpanuwach.


How Does our Water Flow?

This is the Nearctic as divided by the mountain ridges that make up our greater watersheds. Our Region encompasses the Great Basin, part of the Mojave, the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas, and the western side of the Wasatch. We like to call it the Ancient Lakes Basin.

...after the ancient freshwater lakes that once filled this interior drainage basin.


Where are you from?

Let me paint a window for you, beyond the arbitrary rectilinear lines that make up the boundaries of the states we call home, a window that illuminates the knife edge ridges of the mountains encircling your community, catching rain as it falls from the sky feeding trees, rivers, lakes, ecosystems. These are our true boundaries, and yet they are the boundaries that bond us together, a global people who all share at least one thing in common: water, water in our veins, our organs, our food and drink.