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Scientists at the Jornada Range measure the leaf area of mesquite: Link to photo information
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Historic Chihuahuan Desert Laboratory Dedicates New Facility

By Don Comis
August 13, 2002

The Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, N.M., now in its 90th year, today dedicated an $8.2 million, 29,000-square-foot building on the campus of New Mexico State University.

The new research complex is part of the Agricultural Research Service's largest and oldest field station, a 193,000-acre facility established in 1912 within the northern section of the vast Chihuahuan Desert, which stretches into Mexico. ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The desert site is a living laboratory for the study of desert rangelands. The research ranch, about one-fourth the size of Rhode Island, has developed new technologies for remediating deserts and monitoring and managing rangeland. U.S. Rep. Joe Skeen (R- N.M.) spoke at the ceremony this morning. Other officials, including ARS Acting Administrator Edward B. Knipling, also spoke.

The building will provide office, laboratory and conference space for 55 staff, including those from New Mexico State University, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and collaborators.

The Jornada researchers work closely with dozens of collaborating scientists, including researchers from Mexico, to protect the long-term environmental health of desert landscapes. Their work applies to deserts throughout the American Southwest and the world. Scientists at the Jornada cooperate with diverse organizations, including the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and Sierra Club.

Access to the university, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and NRCS gives Jornada researchers the additional resources needed to take on the monumental task of remediating such a large area. They also work closely with scientists in other states-- including ARS remote sensing scientists in Maryland and National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists--to study interactions between desert landscapes and global climate change.

From nine decades of experience has emerged a philosophy of using natural things-- such as innate animal behavior and landscape features--to protect and revegetate the desert inexpensively while raising livestock.

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