Macho B

If you are interested in Macho B and his life and demise, check out this blog.  Here is an introduction from it:


Why I am here


Close to three years ago I became the whistle-blower that initiated the federal investigation into the snaring and death of the United States only known resident jaguar, Macho B.  Unfortunately, it was all for naught as absolutely nothing has changed in jaguar conservation for the benefit and protection of these incredibly rare and magnificent animals.  I’ve been working on a book about Macho B’s death but with the announcement of a new jaguar research project taking place in Arizona and the documentation of a new jaguar in Arizona this past November it feels like time is of the essence.  Therefore, this blog will be about Macho B’s snaring and death; the whole story.  The goal is to prevent another snared and dead jaguar.

If you are interested in knowing more about my involvement in Macho B’s case please click on the link posted below to an essay I wrote entitled, Truth and Consequences.  It was first published in the fall/winter 2011 edition of Three Coyotes, a literary and visual arts journal.

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Study: We’re Screwed Without Wolves and Bears

| Tue Apr. 10, 2012 12:53 PM PDT

Wolf in YellowstoneA wolf in Yellowstone

Deer have been a blight on suburbia for a while now, munching their way through tract-housing gardens and making some highways extremely dangerous for motorists, as their populations have exploded. (In DC, where they live in abundant numbers in the city's biggest park, Rock Creek Park, they're known by neighbors as rats with antlers.) Deer are also radically changing places like the forests of the Adirondacks by devouring young tree shoots from the storied maples and leaving nothing but beech. But a new study finds that it's not just deer populations that are wreaking havoc on North American ecosystems. It's all of the large mammals that graze on plants.

Moose, elk, and deer populations are at historic highs, according to an extensive review by scientists at Oregon State University. And they're taking their toll on young trees, reducing biodiversity of forests and contributing to climate change as a result. The leading cause of the disrupted ecosystems is the disappearance of the predators, namely wolves and bears. Researchers found that large mammal densities were six times higher in areas without wolves than in those with them. 

"These issues do not just affect the United States and a few national parks," said William Ripple, an OSU professor of forestry and lead author of the study, in a statement. "The data from Canada, Alaska, the Yukon, Northern Europe and Asia are all showing similar results. There's consistent evidence that large predators help keep populations of large herbivores in check, with positive effects on ecosystem health.

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Boise NF photo by George Wuerthner
Though Senator Ben Nelson may not have it in mind to save western public lands from excessive livestock grazing, the bill he recently introduced could "hit them where it hurts" with its focus on setting realistic fees for grazing on public lands. In mid July, the Nebraska Senator introduced a taxpayer fairness bill to end the substantial federal subsidies that an elite number of livestock producers receive. If the bill makes its way through to become law, it's estimated to save American taxpayers $1.2 billion (and, perhaps, discourage the use of some of the most sensitive public land in the arid west). His bill requires that the Secretary of the Interior work in conjunction with the Secretary of Agriculture to set livestock grazing fees on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Forest System public rangelands at rates comparable to those found on nearby private grazing lands.
Boise NF photo by George Wuerthner Cow-bombed riparian area in Boise National Forest, Idaho.

Creator of the Olaus J. Murie Award bemoans the degeneration of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

David Stalling worked for Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for a number of years. For 10 years he was conservation editor of Bugle, their magazine. He was also President for two terms of the Montana Wildlife Federation and presently is a grassroots organizer for Trout Unlimited.

In view of the current controversy over the family of Olaus J. Murie revoking the use of the Murie name by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation due to their adoption of a strident anti-wolf policy, today Stalling issued a strong, detailed rebuke to the organization he used to love.

There is little doubt that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has been transformed. Obviously there will be those who say it is better now that it is a more single purpose organization devoted to elk hunting alone without worry about other kinds of wildlife or unpleasant disputes over protecting habitat. It appears too that more money can be made by appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Read more…

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Captive Born Lobo Leaves Wild Legacy

Captive Born Lobo Leaves Wild Legacy

Remembrance for Laredo (AM806) by Jean Ossorio, July 19, 2012


Adjusting to life in the wild can be a daunting task for a Mexican gray wolf born in captivity. There is much to learn: how to kill wild prey, how to avoid vehicles on the highway, how to stay away from potentially dangerous humans, how to find water and suitable den sites. Mexican wolf M806 mastered all the necessary skills and managed to survive in the wild from his release on July 6, 2006, until his death on July 6, 2012. Few captive born lobos have been more successful.

Read more…

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Arizona fire damage brings forests closer to collapse

As the chopper flew over the White Mountains, along the Mogollon Rim and on toward Flagstaff, Covington plotted out, with the help of a map and the Blackhawk's window, five tracts of forest, each about 500,000 acres, mostly ponderosa pines in the higher elevations and piñon pines and juniper trees farther down the slopes.

The first tract was near Show Low and Heber, spreading out onto the nearby White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation. Another was farther east toward Springerville, Greer and Alpine. A third stretched from Payson toward Winslow, a fourth surrounded Prescott, and one more climbed the Rim from Sedona to Flagstaff.
That's where fires will burn in the next 20 or 30 years, Covington told Hull — big fires like Arizona has never seen. The forests were overgrown, the trees so close together that flames would race up the slopes, over the Rim and into the mountains for thousands of acres until the fuel ran out. The forests needed thinning, Covington argued. Hull, who owned a second home in the White Mountains, agreed and pledged help.

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Eat Less Meat and Farm Efficiently to Tackle Climate Change

ScienceDaily (June 19, 2012) — We need to eat less meat and recycle our waste to rebalance the global carbon cycle and reduce our risk of dangerous levels of climate change.

New research from the University of Exeter shows that if today's meat-eating habits continue, the predicted rise in the global population could spell ecological disaster. But changes in our lifestyle and our farming could make space for growing crops for bioenergy and carbon storage.

Though less efficient as an energy source than fossil fuels, plants capture and store carbon that would otherwise stay in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Burning our waste from organic materials, such as food and manure, and any bioenergy crops we can grow, while capturing the carbon contained within them, could be a powerful way to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Published June  20, 2012 in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, the research suggests that in order to feed a population of 9.3 billion by 2050 we need to dramatically increase the efficiency of our farming by eating less beef, recycling waste and wasting less food. These changes could reduce the amount of land needed for farming, despite the increase in population, leaving sufficient land for some bio-energy. To make a really significant difference, however, we will need to bring down the average global meat consumption from 16.6 per cent to 15 per cent of average daily calorie intake — about half that of the average western diet.

The researchers argue that if we change the way we use our land, recycle waste, and dedicate enough space to growing bioenergy crops we could bring down atmospheric carbon dioxide to safe levels. Not doing this means we would lose our natural ecosystems and face increasingly dangerous levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The research team generated four different future scenarios, based on dietary preferences and agricultural efficiency up to 2050: 'high-meat, low-efficiency', 'low-meat, low-efficiency', 'high-meat, high-efficiency' and 'low-meat, high-efficiency'. The different agricultural options looked at the type of livestock being produced, with beef being the least energy-efficient and pork being the most. They also looked at how intensively animals are farmed and examined options for reducing food waste and making better use of manure to make livestock farming more efficient.

They used established mathematical models to forecast the effects of each scenario on atmospheric carbon dioxide. By 2050, a 'high-meat, low-efficiency' scenario would add 55 ppm of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, whereas a 'low-meat, high-efficiency' approach with carbon dioxide removal could remove 25 ppm. A 25 ppm reduction could mean we avoid exceeding the two-degree rise in global temperatures that is now widely accepted as a safe threshold.

Lead researcher Tom Powell of Geography at the University of Exeter said: "Our research clearly shows that recycling more and eating less meat could provide a key to rebalancing the global carbon cycle. Meat production involves significant energy losses: only around four per cent of crops grown for livestock turn into meat. By focusing on making agriculture more efficient and encouraging people to reduce the amount of meat they eat, we could keep global temperatures within the two degrees threshold."

Co-author Professor Tim Lenton of the University of Exeter said: "Bioenergy with carbon storage could play a major role in helping us reduce future levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, we only stand a chance of realising that potential, both for energy and carbon capture, if we increase the efficiency of agriculture. With livestock production accounting for 78 per cent of agricultural land use today, this is the area where change could have a significant impact."

Professor Tim Lenton is leading three consultation workshops as part of his review of Sustainability Research at the University of Exeter. Colleagues from all disciplines are invited to attend to contribute their ideas on the key Grand Challenges in Sustainability Research. Workshops are on 21 June and 5 July in Exeter and 3 July in Cornwall.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Exeter.

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Journal Reference:

  1. Thomas Powell, Tim Lenton. Future carbon dioxide removal via biomass energy constrained by agricultural efficiency and dietary trends. Energy & Environmental Science, 2012; DOI: 10.1039/C2EE21592F
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How to put out a campfire

Only 1 minute 13 seconds of really good advice.

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Raising a Ranch from the Dead

By Ed MarstonFor almost four years I have been biting down on Sid Goodloe’s story as though it were a suspicious gold coin. I have also been telling bits and pieces of it to audiences, testing ideas I wasn’t ready to put on paper.

Putting it on paper meant confronting the audacity and complexity of Goodloe’s story, and the fact that so many experts dispute his conclusions (see essay on page 12). Goodloe’s story is about land. It is about a ranch in New Mexico that he has spent his working life transforming from a tree-covered, waterless scrub land into a savanna – an open grassland dotted by stands of trees, ponds and a flowing stream.

The land speaks for itself. The audacity comes in the conclusions that Goodloe draws from his work as a landscape gardener on a large scale. He says that the Southwest has been deprived of fire for a century, and that now, before it is too late, we must move against the piûon-juniper forests, P-J, as they’re called, that have come to cover much of New Mexico and Arizona. He says we must also act against the neighbors of P-J, the upland thickets of ponderosa pine. Unless we move decisively, he warns, the region’s watersheds and wildlife will be lost as surely as we have lost those of Los Angeles and Phoenix.

The West in these unhinged times is not short of radical thinkers. But Goodloe is different. His ideas, instead of flowing out of some fevered ideology, flow off his six square miles of land.

Goodloe is anything but a New Ager – he’s an Aggie, with two degrees from Texas A&M and a deep Texas twang to prove it. Nevertheless, he was led to his vision of the land by 600-year-old drawings Indians had incised into rocks on his land. Any doubts he had about the meaning of the petroglyphs were erased by a sign from the more recent past – notes from 1880 left by federal surveyors.

There is another audacious thing about Goodloe: He apparently developed a working grasp of ecosystem management long before he, or most of us, had heard the phrase.

We live our lives by the stories we tell. Goodloe’s story is powerful because he promises us, and the land, redemption.

If you ask Goodloe why he bought a 3,500-acre, beat-to-death, unfenced ranch with 50 starving mother cows in south-central New Mexico exactly 40 years ago this month, he gives a careful answer.

“This ranch was badly abused, so I could afford it. But I also saw the potential. I knew I could make a living cutting firewood to buy food and clothes. I knew the soil was good. It was close to wildlife, so I could rent the land out to hunters in the fall. I knew if I integrated all the resources, I could make a living. I wasn’t going to operate the way they taught us at Texas A&M. If I’d have been a purist cattleman, I’d have starved to death.”

When Goodloe says the ranch “was close to wildlife” he is being euphemistic. In plainer language, his ranch had so little grass that wildlife stayed away. And what had been Carrizo Creek when Anglo settlers came to the area in the 1880s was by 1956 a deep, eroding arroyo that ran only when the snow melted or rain fell.

Goodloe could use windmills to make up for the lack of flowing water. But lack of grass was a much more serious problem. One of his first acts after taking ownership was to evict a team of archaeologists exploring an Indian village. Researcher Jane Kelley, recalling that event 40 years later, says, “I worked on the ranch in 1955. In 1956, we went back. Goodloe had just bought the ranch. He said to us: “I can’t stand it. You’re running over blades of grass.” So we left.”

The archaeologists didn’t go far. The region is thick with ruins, and they found research sites on neighboring ranches. Kelley, now professor emeritus at the University of Calgary in Canada, came back to the area year after year. She kept an eye on Goodloe’s ranch, and says that it became clear that his land, bit by bit, was becoming healthier.

“He let us back on the ranch in the 1980s. He had been incredibly successful in turning a raw arroyo into a stream with grass and sloping banks – it was hard empirical evidence of what he’s done.”

Jane Kelley says she wondered why Goodloe was almost the only rancher in the area to transform his land. In the course of her research, she had become good friends with one of Goodloe’s neighbors and she asked him why he didn’t restore his ranch. He agreed that Goodloe had improved the valley and the hydraulic system, but Kelley says he had no interest himself in changing how he did things.

It wasn’t his way, the rancher told Kelley.

Goodloe sympathizes. He says he was able to turn his land into a productive ecosystem only because he was an outsider, and saw things freshly. Even so, “It wasn’t an overnight deal. It took me 15 years before I could see what to do. And if I had been an old-timer, it’d never have happened.”

One of the first hints about the true nature of the land came from archaeologists who told him 1,000 people had lived in a village on his land.

“It didn’t strike me for years – the meaning of all those people living on my land 600 years ago. In the 1950s and 1960s, I was working for New Mexico State University or for the neighbors 10 to 12 hours a day. I had five little kids and a little ranch. I left home at dawn and came home after dark. I didn’t have time to meditate on things.”

Goodloe recalls that “it finally hit me some time in the mid-1960s, when I saw fish and beaver petroglyphs at the village.” He realized that not only had the land supported hundreds of people, where he was having trouble supporting seven, but that there had also been live, year-round streams with fish and beaver.

Archaeologists say that just because the Indians were drawing fish and beaver doesn’t mean fish and beaver were on the ranch. It could have been wishful thinking, like the Norman Rockwell paintings many Americans are still so fond of. But Goodloe takes the village and its art literally. His next insight into the land came when he decided to fence the ranch in the 1960s. To find the property lines, he got the notes the U.S. survey team had made on its trip through the region in 1880. With their help, he found the brass caps set in concrete that mark the section, or square-mile, corners.

But he also needed the quarter-section corners. The surveyors’ notes said they were marked by cut stones because there were no witness trees nearby. When Goodloe, starting at the section corners, used a compass and tape measure to find the quarter-section corners, they were in the middle of a piûon-juniper forest that looked as if it had been there forever.

“The penny fell from my eyes right there. I said: “There’s something drastically wrong here.” ”

It took 10 years, Goodloe says, but he finally put it all together. His ranch had once been an open grassland with a stream and fish and a village housing several hundred people. Now he had to figure out how to bring back that lost landscape.

He had made one major attempt at improvement the year after he moved onto the ranch. With help from the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, he brought in a crew to drag a huge anchor chain, hung between two bulldozers, across half of his 3,500 acres, knocking down the piûon and juniper trees. The same thing was being done all across the Southwest. Ranchers and federal land managers were trying with varying degrees of urgency to turn back the “brush” that was invading the region’s federal and private grasslands. All efforts depended on the same thing: generous help from the U.S. Treasury.

The chaining worked for Goodloe. Grass grew and wildlife moved onto the ranch. He expanded his herd. And, he got another clue. After the chaining, the arroyo started to run. With the piûon and juniper trees no longer soaking up and transpiring all the rain and snowmelt, and with grass now on the land, the water table had risen and was emptying into the arroyo. The arroyo was still eroding and rockbound, but it was no longer dry.

Then, in the early 1960s, about five years after he had chained, Goodloe got a shock. He realized that the big trees the anchor chain had knocked down and left for dead were alive. “The chain had just pulled the trees over, but some roots were still in the ground.”

Even worse, the smaller piûon and juniper trees had been bent over by the chain, and then had snapped back up. With the big trees barely alive, the smaller trees were “released,” as foresters say. They began to grow quickly. Goodloe realized that if he didn’t do something, the land would soon be worse than before it was chained.

Using all the time he could spare from working jobs off the ranch on the task, he bulldozed downed trees into windrows and burned them. When he wasn’t bulldozing and burning the big trees, he was on his tractor, “popping the small trees out of the ground” before they grew too large to handle.

It took him four years, from 1962 to 1966, to clean up the mess that the 1957 chaining had left. He hasn’t chained since.

By 1966, Goodloe had some open meadows and a fair amount of grass. But he knew the ranch wasn’t healthy. And economically, it still couldn’t support him and his family. Looking back, he says, he just didn’t have the knowledge to see what had to be done.

“When I was in the university the first time, there were no words “riparian” or “ecosystem.” I had no background that would help me. I didn’t know anything but to get rid of brush and rotate cattle.”

So in 1966, in search of cash and education, Goodloe leased his ranch – -with strict limits on how many cattle the tenant could graze’ – and headed for Kenya with his family to manage a ranch.

There, he says, “I learned the true meaning of a savanna that functioned properly.” On Kenya’s wildlife preserves, he saw how periodic grass fires kept the land free of small trees, while allowing the large trees and grass to remain healthy.

He also heard in Africa of a remarkable game warden in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), so he flew to that country and met Allan Savory. At that time, Savory’s holistic resource-management approach to grazing was unknown in the U.S. Goodloe wrote the first American paper about Savory’s methods.

In 1968, Goodloe and his family returned to the U.S. with $10,000 they had saved. Goodloe still didn’t feel ready to tackle the ranch. He didn’t know enough, he says, “so I decided to invest that money in me.” He went back to Texas A&M for a master’s degree in range science. This time there were courses on ecology and watersheds and hydrology.

In 1970, the Goodloes returned to the Carrizo Valley Ranch. “By then,” he says, “I had things figured out.” The phrase probably didn’t exist at the time, but Goodloe was about to try ecosystem management.

What Goodloe had doped out was how cattle had altered the balance of the land, allowing trees to conquer grass, not just on his land but throughout much of the Southwest. He saw that it began with the fact that a 30-year-old piûon or juniper stands only a few feet high. It has spent most of those years putting down roots. The trees grow so slowly, it takes much of a ranching generation for them to become noticeable. By the time the rancher sees what’s happening, it’s too late. Thousands, or tens of thousands, of trees would have taken over, the grass would have disappeared, and the rancher and his cattle could be starved off the land. By the time this had happened, even the federal treasury was of little help. As Goodloe had learned, sloppy chaining practices of the 1950s and 1960s were no match for the trees.

From the rancher’s point of view, the worst thing was that he had done it to himself by grazing the land too heavily.

In pre-Anglo times, Goodloe thinks, grass fires started by lightning swept away the seedlings, keeping the land open. Because the trees stay small for so many years, the fires wouldn’t have to come too often, or burn too hot, to kill them.

There had always been piûon-juniper trees in the area, trees that by luck, researchers say, had escaped fire. These had regularly seeded the grasslands, and then the seedlings, except for a few lucky survivors, had been burned off. But then came enormous herds of sheep and cattle to slick off the range, stop the wildfires and allow trees to take over.

Goodloe says that once established, the trees are fierce competitors, sending roots out long distances just below the surface, crowding out grass. As a result, he says, the ground is bare in a mature piûon-juniper forest.

He has spent a lot of time on the land, digging fence holes, stretching barbed wire from post to post, searching for cows. Sometimes – not often enough, he complains – he has been caught in thunderstorms.

“I’ve watched the water flow out from under the piûon-juniper. Trees are supposed to halt erosion. But this water comes out brown. It’s heavy with soil.” Soil-laden water flowing off of grassless land led Goodloe to see the trees, or at least too many trees, as his enemy.

Because of what he had seen in Africa, Goodloe no longer wanted to totally clear his land. He cored each tree before he decided to cut it. If a tree were older than a century or so – if it had been around when the first Anglo settlers arrived – he let it stand.

“If I was a purist cattleman, I’d want to get rid of all of them. But I leave corridors for the wildlife. And I leave trees for me, for the aesthetics. A place that’s completely cleared off is the pits. I want to look out on beauty.”

Once Goodloe had created meadows by cutting down the post-settlement piûon-juniper, he went into the stands of old growth to cut out the younger trees. In the old days, he says, periodic lightning fires would have protected the large trees by burning out their youthful competitors. But even on Goodloe’s ranch, fires are rare, and he plays the role fire once played; he cuts down the young trees before they can kill the older trees by taking their water and nutrients.

By the mid-1970s, Goodloe had much of the ranch under control: he had cleared out much of the brush and created open meadows. The ranch was looking more and more like the savannas he had seen in Africa. Speaking to groups, he likes to include an African landscape, complete with wildebeests, among slides of his ranch. It takes a moment or two for even a professional audience to realize that they are no longer looking at New Mexico.

But, though the macro-landscape was in good shape, down on the ground, the ranch was still in trouble, with only one kind of grass. “Ninety percent of what I had was sod-bound blue grama grass.”

Blue grama, he says, grows only in hot weather. Over the decades, the cattle had wiped out all the grasses and legumes that grow in the cool seasons. Goodloe’s cattle and wildlife had enough to eat in the summer, but were on thin rations in spring and fall.

Ranchers with irrigation water and a summer grazing allotment in the mountains solve the lack of natural year-round feed by growing grass or alfalfa hay on their irrigated valley land, and putting it up in bales to feed cattle during the winter.

Goodloe, however, has no federal grazing permits and no irrigation water. Buying hay from other ranchers would bankrupt him. To survive, he needed to convince his land to produce grasses for all seasons.

It was a situation made for Allan Savory’s short-duration grazing method that Goodloe had brought back from Africa. In 1970, he divided the ranch into 12 paddocks. The paddocks allowed him to move the cattle around, protecting the cool-season grasses from overgrazing. And all the time, he kept cutting trees, waiting a year or two for the grass to grow and dry, and then burning the cut-over land and seeding it with native grasses. Gradually, Goodloe says, he created a diverse array of grasses.

Today, unless he is hit by an exceptionally heavy winter, he survives most years without having to feed much hay. His cattle get through the winter because he keeps them off two of his hot-season paddocks during the summer. These grasses grow high, where high means about 10 inches, and then dry out. When the snows come, he turns the cattle into these paddocks to feed all winter. It’s not totally free, he says. He still has to feed them supplements. But it beats having to feed hay all winter.

Come spring, Goodloe turns the cattle onto the ranch’s higher elevation paddocks (the ranch runs from 6500 to 7200 feet), which are dominated by cool-season grasses. “I let them start eating that about late April. Then they go to oak brush from about May 10 to June 15.” Goodloe loves the oak brush, which he burns each year. New oak brush, he says, is very nutritious, and “every bite of oak brush is one less bite of grass.”

By June 15, however, the cattle are done with oak brush. “That’s when I usually get in trouble. Our monsoon rains don’t start until July 10, and then we get our warm-season grasses. But from June 15 to July 10, things are tight in this country.”

With the trees under control, and with a broad array of grasses on the ground, Goodloe turned his attention to a riparian area – to the eroding but now flowing gash in the ground known as Carrizo Creek.

The arroyo was flowing because Goodloe – unlike almost all land managers – had started his restoration project by healing his watershed, rather than by protecting his stream. His theory, he says, is that it makes no sense to restore a riparian area if the watershed above it is sick.

“The first big rainstorm will send enough water and mud down to simply rip out your new stream and its vegetation.”

Goodloe says he began protecting Carrizo Creek in 1970 through cattle rotation. He fenced off the stream in the early 1980s, keeping the cattle out completely. Then grasses grew in the eroded streambed each spring and acted like the teeth of a comb, screening dirt out of the flowing water and gradually building the arroyo back into a stream, with a flat bed and grassed-in banks.

Goodloe says his downstream neighbor was not happy about his improving land. Before Goodloe brought his watershed back to life, the land had shed the spring snowmelt from the Lincoln National Forest the way concrete would, giving his neighbor a nice burst of irrigation water each spring. Now Goodloe’s land sops up the spring flood, releasing it only gradually into Carrizo Creek.

When Goodloe fenced his riparian area, he planted willows. “Once the willows get bigger, I will bring some beaver in and they can dam the stream. It will be a complete reconstruction job.”

That will give Goodloe what he thinks the Indians on his land had 600 years ago. In the meantime, Goodloe plays the role of beaver. He has dammed the stream next to his house, and created a pond that is home to ducks and fish.

For years, Goodloe says, he was grateful to the Forest Service for sending the soil that rebuilt Carrizo Creek. But now he no longer needs more dirt, and he has been campaigning for a land restoration project on the forest. He has even helped out, cutting firewood and vigas off the forest, hoping to repeat on federal land what he had done on his land.

Originally, Goodloe recalls, it was a tough fight. The gods are ironic, and they gave him as a neighbor the Smokey Bear Ranger District – home place of the small, burned bear cub that became the Forest Service mascot. Goodloe’s talk of thinning trees and reintroducing fire did not go over well. But over the past few years, the local Forest Service office has become a believer.

“They’re working on it,” he says, “but they let this thing get so far ahead of them that they’ll never catch up.”

Would a major flood off the national forest wipe out Carrizo Creek? Goodloe says it won’t. “I think my watershed is strong enough that I can be physically wounded but not destroyed.”

Goodloe was wounded in 1994. The forest’s thickets of ponderosa pine above his ranch burned. Heavy rains then washed a river of mud onto his land. He used a bulldozer to divert the mud away from Carrizo Creek, but it filled seven of his 35 ponds with silt. He was disgusted.

“A stream,” he warns, “is no healthier over the long term than its watershed. It’s like everything else in nature.”

This, then, is how Sid Goodloe has spent the last 40 years of his life: using energy and brute mechanical force to shove his ranch out of one ecological state and into another.

While Goodloe is worse for wear – one hip is now artificial – the same can’t be said for his land. “When I bought it, the ranch was overstocked with 50 cows. I now run about 100 head and I could run more in average years. But I stock for drought years.

“In my first year on the ranch, my calves weighed about 375 pounds on average. Last year was a dry year, but the steer calves weighed 640 pounds. I won’t tell you what the heifer calves weighed; no one would believe it.” That means Goodloe is getting almost four times as much beef off the land as it was producing 40 years ago.

He is also getting beams called vigas, firewood, Christmas trees, live trees for landscaping, wood for the small kiva ladders he makes when he can’t work outside, increased numbers of wild turkeys and mule deer.

It’s a holistic system, he says. The deer do better because he cuts and peels young ponderosa pine trees for vigas in the winter. The mule deer eat the tree tops he throws away. That green browse, he estimates, has increased the fawn crop by 30 to 50 percent. It pays off for Goodloe in the fall, when hunters rent a cabin and the right to hunt his ranch.

Turkeys are also a game crop in New Mexico, but not on the Carrizo Valley Ranch. If you want to see Goodloe angry, ask about the turkey season.

“This is where the game department is stupid. The season is too long and too late. They’re interfering with reproduction.”

Why does he care about the native Merriam turkeys? “They absolutely keep my ranch free of grasshoppers. And they go through the (ponderosa pine) needles and scratch them up so they burn better. They’re more important to me than anything else in the way of wildlife.”

Goodloe’s mantra is “not all trees are good and not all fires are bad.” But he is no more a purist when it comes to fire than he is a “purist cattleman.” He uses fire where he can – he religiously burns oak brush, and he’d love to see the ponderosa pine forests above him thinned enough to allow for cool fires.

But when it is too wet or dry and windy to burn, Goodloe climbs on a four-wheeler and rolls from seedling to seedling, administering a drop of herbicide to each.

Goodloe estimates that his job at home is done; he has brought almost all of his land back to its pre-settlement condition. But he says the entire Southwest is at risk of losing its watersheds, and that if the watersheds go, the rivers and cities won’t be far behind.

The Beldon II Fund and the Lazar Foundation helped pay for this article.

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For Immediate Release:  Monday, May 14, 2012

Contact:  Daniel Patterson 520.906.2159; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

33 Million Acres of BLM Grazing Allotments Fail Basic Rangeland Health Standards

Washington, DC — A new federal assessment of rangelands in the West finds a disturbingly large portion fails to meet range health standards principally due to commercial livestock operations, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  In the last decade as more land has been assessed, estimates of damaged lands have doubled in the 13-state Western area where the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducts major livestock leasing.      

The “Rangeland Inventory, Monitoring and Evaluation Report for Fiscal Year 2011” covers BLM allotments in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.  The report totals BLM acreage failing to meet rangeland health standards in measures such as water quality, watershed functionality and wildlife habitat:

  • Almost 40% of BLM allotments surveyed since 1998 have failed to meet the agency’s own required land health standards with impairment of more than 33 million acres, an area exceeding the State of Alabama in size, attributed to livestock grazing;
  • Overall, 30% of BLM’s allotment area surveyed to date suffers from significant livestock-induced damage, suggesting that once the remaining allotments have been surveyed, the total impaired area could well be larger than the entire State of Washington; and
  • While factors such as drought, fire, invasion by non-native plants, and sprawl are important, livestock grazing is identified by BLM experts as the primary cause (nearly 80%) of BLM lands not meeting health standards.

“Livestock’s huge toll inflicted on our public lands is a hidden subsidy which industry is never asked to repay,” stated PEER Advocacy Director Kirsten Stade, noting that the percentage of impairment in lands assessed remains fairly consistent over the past decade.  “The more we learn about actual conditions, the longer is the ecological casualty list.”

Last November, PEER filed a scientific integrity complaint that BLM had directed scientists to exclude livestock grazing as a factor in changing landscapes as part of a $40 million study, the biggest such effort ever undertaken by BLM.  The complaint was referred to a newly appointed Scientific Integrity Officer for BLM but there are no reports of progress in the agency’s self-investigation in the ensuing months.

“BLM controls more American public land than any other government agency, and they continue to fail to conserve the health of the land,” said Daniel Patterson, Ecologist & Southwest PEER Director. He formerly worked with BLM. “Degraded rangelands harm wildlife, water, hunting, fishing and recreation on our lands. BLM remains hijacked by the livestock lobby.”

At the same time, BLM range evaluations, such as this latest one, use ambiguous categories that mask actual conditions, employing vague terms such as “making significant progress” and “appropriate action has been taken to ensure significant progress” that obscure damage estimates and inflate the perception of restoration progress.  For example, in 2001 nearly 60% of BLM lands (94 million acres, an area larger than Montana) consisted of grazing allotments that were supposed to be managed to “improve the current resource condition” – a number that has stayed unchanged for a decade.

“Commercial livestock operations are clearly a major force driving degradation of wild places, jeopardy to wildlife, major loss of water quality and growing desertification throughout the American West,” Stade added, while noting that BLM has historically been dominated by livestock interests.  “The BLM can no longer remain in denial on the declining health of our vast open range.”


Look at the PEER distillation of the new BLM numbers

See BLM 2011 Rangeland Evaluation Report

View all past BLM Rangeland Evaluations

Review PEER complaint that BLM excludes grazing from scientific assessments