Sunday, March 19, 2006

Restoration & snow at Sonoran Desert Monument

SONORAN DESERT NATIONAL MONUMENT AZ -- Out on-the-ground this weekend for the Center, media, public, and land managers restoring the desert from off-road abuse.

Nice, cool and starry last night. Then a short, cloudy sunrise with great glows early Sunday. Followed by some snow, hail, and rain. Time to go home.

The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is attempting some much needed and overdue restoration on the eastside of the monument, closing the Butterfield Stage Route for a short time to try to get everyone back on the main route, and stop driving everywhere across the desert. BLM really should plan to keep all off-road vehicles out of the monument, allowing for access not excess. Cars and trucks would still be allowed on open routes.

This BLM monument southwest of Phoenix is also hammered by cattle, with public lands allotments tied to huge cattle corp. feedlots in Stanfield AZ, east of the SDNM. Cattle are eating all the forage plants, essentially starving desert bighorn in the North Maricopa Mountains. We also saw carcasses of at least 5 dead cows, who also likely starved in the extreme dry desert conditions not suitable for livestock grazing.

No matter what, the monument is a cool place. It needs more friends, restoration, and better management. But 20 years from now as Phoenix keeps expanding it'll be seen as a critical protected area. If BLM actually protects it.

1 comment:

T. Beth said...

I can tell the areas that have been overgrazed by cattle here in the Tucson area because of their reduced biological diversity, with mainly Jumping Chollas (Cylindropuntia fulgida) and Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata), plants that are obviously not favored by cattle and resist their trampling.