“This land has been farmed since pioneer times, and we’d like to see it continue in a similar way.”
– Paul Willie, life-long resident of Mendon,
BRLC Board of Directors Emeriti
When BRLC bought the 30 acre section of farmland, pasture, and marsh in 2013, we did so with a few specific goals in mind. The preserve is home to Ute ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes diluvialis) a rare and threatened species of orchid, discovered in 2008 for the first time in Cache Valley on this property. The acquisition of this parcel protects the wetlands, but it is grazing and farming that protect the orchid. The orchids are very short, and if the property were not hayed and grazed each summer, the plants would not be able to compete with the tall grasses on the property.
As Dave Rayfield, former Chairman of the Conservancy’s Board explained, “Our mission includes protecting critical habitats, but we are also committed to conserving part of our rapidly disappearing agriculture base.”
This property is a prime example of how varied public benefits can exist on the same relatively small patch of land. Ranching, farming, and conservation of threatened species are all present in the Mendon Meadow Preserve, and we couldn’t be happier.
Each year volunteers conduct a six week survey of the orchid population on the preserve. Below are the numbers observed each year. If you would like to volunteer to help us with this citizen scientist project, please use our contact page. As you can see, the population varies widly year-to-year, and we are working on finding out why!
2012: 67 (Incomplete Survey)
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Environmental Conservation Online System Entry
We are so proud that our endangered orchid has been able to inspire so many volunteer hours, and Star Coulbrooke, Logan Poet Laureate, to write a poem to commemorate her experience counting these orchids. We share it here with her permission.
UTE LADIES’-TRESSES IN WETLAND PASTURE
Utah in summer
Turns wet, meadows
Emptied of winter.
Last of the snowpack
Advances its melt up the Wellsvilles,
Drowning the valleys
In pools lush with grass,
Emerald expanses dotted with color,
Serious buds ready to burst.
True to the Wetland,
Ripe, efflorescent, these delicate orchids
Emerge thin-stemmed, each blossom a chalice,
Succulent cups curving out, spiraling:
Elusive white stalks rise, ghostly
Surprises, one here, then one there,
Next to the last one we spotted and marked.
With GPS in hand, the leader of our search
Eyes each ribboned stake we set beside
These rare endangered specimens,
Leopard frogs leaping past our feet
As we splash through grass, energized,
Not wanting to quit, this pasture a gift
Donated for study, anonymously.
Precious, the gift of conservancy.
Audubon volunteers counting each orchid,
Seeking to keep them from losing their meadow.
Tresses abounding in Mendon, on this thirty acres.
Utes weren’t the first to appreciate
Rippled white cups braiding thin stalks. We observe
Each subsequent blooming and count ourselves lucky.
Star Coulbrooke, Logan Poet Laureate
Acrostic Poem composed for the Master Gardeners
Conserving Rare Plants and Private Wetlands event
Originally shared 06/08/2016, 12:00 noon at Herm’s Inn, 1435 Canyon Road