Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wisdom from Aldo Leopold: Safe FROM Cows

At some point soon we'll get around to a post about the jaguar (YAY!), but we had cause to come across this oldie but goodie from Aldo Leopold today. Really, every reread of Leopold confirms his genius.

[...] Montague Stevens saw only the surface of the land he hunted over. His active days afield coincided with the advent of erosion in the cow country, but he did not see it. The better to keep up with his hounds, he practiced riding his horse across the cavernous arroyos which were then invading the fertile valleys, but he did not recognize the invasion as something new in history, nor did he perceive its cause: the terrific overgrazing practiced by the early cowmen. Small wonder, then, that less intelligent men still fail to perceive that something more important than bears is departing from the western range. New Mexico's grizzlies succumbed visibly to trap, gun, and poisoned bait, but New Mexico's fertile valleys slipped down the Rio Grande in the night. Neither will return.

The University of New Mexico has done well to preserve this saga of how the state was made safe for cows. How the state is to be made safe from cows is a saga yet to be written.
Leopold, Aldo: Review of "Meet Mr. Grizzly", Journal of Forestry, March 1944. Reproduced in Aldo Leopold's Southwest, edited by David E. Brown & Neil B. Carmony, University of New Mexico Press, 1990, pg. 220. (Source)

Indeed, the paradigm that Leopold grocked so well has yet to be manifest on the western lands. Few places are safe from cows, wolves are still seen as the enemy, and wingnuts compete to cut off coyote ears for points. When will we learn what Leopold tried to teach us?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that it is true that most people do not grasp what has been lost because of ranching. They think that the desert is supposed to look empty and dustry and since there are so few areas to 'train their eyes' on a healthy desert, the understanding is harder and harder to convey. It is hard to see what is not there.