By Kate Hickman
Since its birth in 1970, Earth Day has been observed globally on April 22 through celebrations, demonstrations and acts of conservation. On Saturday, April 24, “Slate Canyon Earth Day” was held to commemorate the holiday through conservation efforts and educational outreach. This was a multi-faceted event with several different sponsors and volunteer projects. The event incorporated four ongoing projects and was primarily organized by Kristina Davis, a faculty adjunct in UVU’s Biology department.
The first project, landscape improvement, was sponsored by the Provo Parks Department and focused on removing noxious weeds, such as Myrtle Spurge, and the spread of gravel and bark around parking strips and lots. In the second project, the bike skills course was cleaned and reconstructed by volunteers who want to see more mountain biking trails in the area. Thirdly, the Provo Police Department’s “Tag” Graffiti Removal team oversaw the removal or cover-up of several boulders, fences and structures that had been tagged. In the final project, a coalition of scientists from UVU and BYU partnered to launch a citizen science project that aims to inform the community about local biodiversity and document the species inhabiting Slate Canyon using a simple yet sophisticated app called “iNaturalist.”
As a continuation of the citizen science project, iNaturalist will be used to participate in the annual “City Nature Challenge,” an international initiative of friendly competition to identify and document species in and around urban areas. Locally, the project is spearheaded by Dr. Ashley Eagan in the Biology department and targets Slate Canyon (although iNaturalist can be used to identify species anywhere). The challenge begins April 30 and ends May 3, incorporating all observations made on iNaturalist during that time frame.
Sponsors for Slate Canyon Earth Day ranged from Provo City to Western Metals Recycling to UVU’s College of Science. One of the primary sponsors of this event was “Conserve Utah Valley,” a non-profit organization that partners with local governments, businesses and other organizations. They aim to protect, sustain and raise awareness of natural spaces and resources in the community.
Executive Director of Conserve Utah Valley, Craig Christensen, stated, “I’m convinced there are so many people who want to do something about conservation. They just don’t know what to do!” Herein lies the gap that these sponsors want to bridge: by providing volunteer opportunities, the community can actively engage in conservation.
Attendance estimates determined a turnout of over 400 people of varying backgrounds for the event. Many of the volunteers were students, ranging in age from elementary school to college! Families, youth clubs, classmates, citizen scientists, community members and professionals all showed up to participate in the various activities.
When asked what the intended impact for this event was, Davis responded, “When people don’t understand the importance of the different plants and animals to the ecosystem, they unwittingly do damage. If we can get them to respect it, we can get them to protect it.”
Though April 22 has passed and Earth Day 2021 is over, this doesn’t mean conservation efforts have to wait until Earth Week next year! There are many opportunities to participate in conservation in your own community: volunteer in your free time, get involved with research and talk to people about the environment. Building off this energy, the organizers are implementing “Slate Canyon Saturdays,” which entails ongoing educational and volunteer opportunities on the last Saturday of every month. Themes will change each month, starting with “Purge the Spurge” on May 29. For more information and to get involved in the ongoing conservation efforts in our community, visit conserveutahvalley.org.