MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGIES FOR ARID RANGELANDS
Location: Range Management Research
Title: Bulldozers, mental models, and aerial photography: Geographies of long-term private restoration on semi-arid rangelands
Submitted to: Association of American Geographers
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: February 15, 2008
Publication Date: April 1, 2008
Citation: Sayre, N.F., Whelan, M., Fredrickson, E.L., Bestelmeyer, B.T. 2008. Bulldozers, mental models, and aerial photography: Geographies of long-term private restoration on semi-arid rangelands [abstract]. Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, April 14-19, 2008, Boston, Massachusetts. Available: http://communicate.aag.org/eseries/aag_org/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=18115.
Private efforts to restore degraded Southwestern desert grasslands have been under way at least since the 1920s, but their effects are little studied and poorly understood. Most are considered simply to have failed, or to have been swamped by the effects of climate and fire suppression. These judgments may need to be reevaluated on longer temporal scales, however, in light of evidence that semiarid rangeland systems are strongly determined by "slow" variables and thresholds of nonlinear change. Drought, erosion, fire, grazing and other disturbances may leave historical legacies that persist on scales of decades or longer, and management interventions may require comparable periods of time to show significant responses in target organisms. Long-term data have been collected for a handful of government research sites, and repeat photography and aerial photographs have enabled analysis of broader patterns of vegetation change, but historical information about management of private ranches has been almost wholly lacking. We use a combination of interviews, archival records, aerial photography, remote sensing and GIS to evaluate restoration efforts on the Elbrock Ranch in southwestern New Mexico over the past seventy years. This research contributes to efforts to historicize state-and-transition models in rangeland ecology, and to understand ranchers' "mental models" as slow variables in their own right. It also enables us to see beyond dualisms of human/natural and pristine/degraded to geographies of restoration on very large spatial and temporal scales.