An Icon We Can All Look Down On




Those who regularly read this magazine are probably aware we have a mascot of sorts: the red-spotted newt. And those who have read the magazine for a long time are probably saying to themselves, “Enough with the the red-spotted newt, already. We get it.” But bear with me. I’m not selling T-shirts, I’m asking for a reality check. Read on and then tell me if you disagree.

We picked the newt as a mascot for a variety of good reasons. First of all, it’s the state amphibian. We’re not the only state with an official amphibian, but it’s less common than, say, an official state wildflower (ours is the pink lady slipper, by the way). The newt is colorful and renders well as a logo, and it has a great little history of how it became a state symbol. All this, plus its presence as an embedded environmental correspondent, reporting from the state’s ponds and leaf litter, gives it the kind of journalistic depth appropriate to a magazine mascot. The newt has served us well over the years and only embarrassed us once or twice — like when he (she?) ran for governor in 2002 and, failing that, ran for president two years later.

During the last Governor’s Conference on Tourism, it was noted once again that New Hampshire is surrounded by states with strong symbols: Maine — lobsters, Vermont — cows and cheese, Massachusetts — drivers. New Hampshire was long known (at least locally) for the Great Stone Face of the Old Man of the Mountain, but nature and gravity finally reduced that proud visage into a pile of unremarkable rubble. Even in spite of the long-stalled plans for a replacement monument of some kind to be unveiled in the notch, we know it’s time to move on.

Anyway, a murmur at that conference became a discussion and then turned into a call for ideas that was announced in press releases and on social networking sites: Help us find a new symbol, something that represents our state, something that gives people a reason to visit, something to look for when they are here, something that defines us.

You probably already see where this is going.

If the state really wants a new symbol, we have one ready to go — experienced but affordable, humble but colorful when it needs to be, approachable, but not clingy.

Some might say, “Why not the Karner blue butterfly? It’s the official state butterfly. It’s pretty and rare.” But you don’t really want large groups of people stomping through the limited habitat of an endangered species. The newt already shares its habitat with millions of hikers, leaf-peepers, ATV drivers, jet ski operators and kids who love to catch them and put them into plastic buckets to show their parents (then, hopefully, dump back into the water). All they ask is that we try not to step on or otherwise crush them when they cross our paths on their seasonal journeys from ponds to woods and back again. Oh, and they’d like us to keep our pollution levels down to the point where they don’t grow extra legs.

So, while the red-spotted newt might not make a good elected official, as a symbol of what’s great about New Hampshire, you’d have to look long and hard to find something better. Am I wrong?

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