Sunday, July 03, 2011
Historic Patterns of Vegetation & Enviro Bankrolls
Fuchs’ Findings and a lost Bird
Historic Patterns of Vegetation
Tedium from the Extractive Funding Front
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
On my wall are two panoramic pictures of brandings from 1931. The first picture shows Lee Rice “holding rodear” on Rain Creek Mesa. The second is a similar scene three or four miles south in Mogollon Creek at the 916 headquarters.
There are a number of the cowboys in the pictures that are dear to me and mine. There is also a treasured family heirloom seen in both pictures. That saddle sits on a stand across the room from me.
Look at the Evidence
Nearly every time someone stops by those pictures are discussed. I like the discussion and it gives me a chance to re-inspect them myself. It has occurred to me, though, the interest that is generated from the two scenes with all those horned Hereford cattle is only part of the historical significance. Perhaps more importantly is the backdrop.
In the picture from Rain Creek Mesa, the mesa itself is paired with 74 Mountain as a backdrop. In the 916 picture, the interest is Mogollon Creek with the drainages of Davis and Rough Canyons extending eastward toward Watson Mountain. What the casual observer would not comprehend is the scarcity of trees relative to today.
On the hillside just south from the 916 corral are mature alligator and one seeded junipers in a density of perhaps 10-15 trees per acre. Across the creek to the east in a stretch of hillside of some 250 yards, a total of 12 trees can be counted.
Looking closely at the ridges at higher elevations, the absence of mature juniper trees is obvious. Apache plume, mountain mahogany, and oak are abundant, but not junipers. Likewise, the creek bottom itself is void of most trees except oaks and at least one visible sycamore. The under story is open and filled with grass, especially in the picture at the 916. Remember the year was 1931. Cattle had been on those ranges under the same brands since 1888 and 1884, respectively.
As to any suggestion of logging, there was only isolated pine trees at this elevation and not many junipers would have been cut off the hillsides. Posts would have been cut where fences were built.
To the Esoterics
Since branding was being done, it was likely June when the pictures were taken. The monsoons had not started, and, yet, cattle body scores were very comparable to modern conditions. That meant the quality and abundance of grass must be good since cattle would not be supplemented in those days.
The source and quantity of water were also factors of interest. There was no construction of “tanks” being done at that early date. Cattle had to be watering either in Mogollon Creek or at a handful of hand dug wells that may or may not have been equipped with windmills.
The concentration of cattle would have been high along the creek and near the edges of the mesa. We know that from verbal history. It would have been there, in the confined areas around limited water, that, indeed, cattle impact would have been most extreme. The pressure from cattle further from water would have been proportionally less. Cattle are not going to be where they cannot drink within a reasonable walking distance . . . they never have . . . they never will. The incessant premise of universal overgrazing on western ranges is an unmitigated distortion of fact.
The Fuchs work
If the question is asked today of the historical abundance of forests, the invariable response is historical forest growth and footprint exceeds that of today. The Fuchs work upends that general assumption.
In fact, if Lincoln County is anything like the other counties in the state, the bigger question should be, “Why are we not logging New Mexico forests?” The bulk of the Fuchs historic pictures range from just after 1900 to about 1915. The pictures predate extensive logging. The work represents a broad spectrum of historic timber growth.
In his book, Historic Increases in Woody Vegetation in Lincoln County, New Mexico, there are many pictures that negate what we have been erroneously taught, but the picture of Sierra Blanca taken from Lookout Mountain in 1914 compared to the picture taken from the same spot in 1998 is simply amazing. There is timber today that didn’t even exist in 1914 and long before equipment was available to log those high ridges. The comparison is stunning.
The Message from the Script
In a recent Albuquerque newspaper op-ed, the obligatory green wave rebuttal discounting the need to log in order to reduce fuel in southwestern forests was all too familiar. The first order of business was to remind the masses that the health of the modern forests was the fault of early day loggers and ranchers. It seems that “dry pine forests of the west were severely logged over, leaving a nearly uniform mass of small trees. Domestic livestock grazing, which suppresses the grasses that normally carry low intensity fire fostered the proliferation of pine seedlings and aggravated conditions.”
The article went on to ding the logging industry itself because it “cut itself out of business, the lumber business is mostly gone and the market for lumber is at record low.” The fact finder went on to relate, “Supposing we threw aside all environmental concerns and opened our public forestlands to logging on a historic scale . . . there would be no use for logs.”
As to the accusation that the green wave has exacerbated the danger of western fires by litigating every effort to address the dangerous fuel loads, the scribe had an answer to that as well when he noted “as an atmosphere of litigation and acrimony surrounding resources has given way to a spirit of cooperation.”
The final dagger, however, was that time tested treasure of the same crowd when their wilderness warrior surreptitiously noted that “cost-effective fuel reduction is accomplished with other tools including: wildland fire use, prescribed fire, thinning, and removal of livestock grazing pressure.”
Political Science and the modern scandal, the Extractive Funding Front
Productive Americans are tired of the environmental conflagration in every form. The tedious reminders of historic stewardship condemnations are wearing thin. There are too many examples of science being seen for what they are . . . pure political junk with enough pseudoscience to redirect our entire societal framework to accomplish some perverted goal.
Those efforts could not have occurred if they had not been supported by institutions within our midst that exist on extractive funding. For too long the blame of western environmental wrongs has been directed without recourse to the so called extractive industries. The truth is becoming clearly focused . . . the real dilemma has been created by the ambitions of the environmental robbers . . . the Extractive Funding Front.
The components of the Extractive Funding Front are various. They are both public and private. What they share in common is reliance on funding that comes from a source external from their legal framework. It doesn’t come from their primary production of goods and services. It comes from somebody else’s wealth creation. It is, therefore, technically parasitic and science suggests parasites that cannot exist in a symbiotic relationship with their host . . . eventually destroy themselves.
The Objective Realizations
The work of Hollis Fuchs stemming from historical pictures like those on my tack room wall offers hope and creates a degree of optimism for our future. There are real world implications addressed from those photos.
The expanse of forest growth, the condition of cattle in full drought, the affects of watershed health, the fantastic natural adjustments to constraints and changing conditions, and the evolutionary acceptance of man when he is exposed to risk and failure as an integral cooperator with nature all have positive implications for our future. That is where the real science exists. That is where the positive direction lays . . . and that is where the real environmental revolution beckons.
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “The Extractive Funding Front has robbed us of the real environmental relationship with our dynamic natural world. Their tedious condescension of our existence and cattle on our western ranges reminds me of them brushing their teeth. If the last time they brushed their teeth was 50 years ago, there would be a bit of uncontrolled undergrowth in their oral cavities. The rest of us know that a little maintenance has therapeutic benefits, and that includes the advancement of our management skills through our stewardship responsibilities.” June, 2011.