Dispatch From the Chihuahuan Desert Grasslands

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Author: Judith D. Schwartz | Posted on: August 19, 2015

A drive through Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert grasslands offers vast, near-boundless vistas—and a glimpse of a landscape in the balance. Passing the ejidos, communal farmland given to people as part of land reforms after the Mexican Revolution, one sees land with sparse annuals and brush and the occasional flaca vaca: a skinny cow, often barely alive. Then there are the huge tracts of brown, bare ground, where Mennonite farmers employ intensive agriculture.

My guide, rancher Alejandro Carrillo, has watched this landscape degrade, nearly in real time. “When I was growing up this was the best land in the area, with grama grass up to that wire,” he tells me, gesturing to an indifferent brownish weedy plot lined with waist-high fencing and dotted with random brush, a far cry from the lush pasture he remembers. The consequences of land deterioration throughout Mexico’s largest state have been devastating to local communities as well as to wildlife—particularly to migratory grassland birds that winter in the region and whose populations have plummeted, among some species more than 80 percent. And yet Carrillo’s ranch, Las Damas Ranch, is an oasis of bird life. Carrillo, who has holistically managed Las Damas Ranch since 2006 after leaving a successful career in IT, now works with bird conservation groups to create habitat for the endangered birds. He and several other ranchers who practice Holistic Planned Grazing have established research and conservation partnerships with organizations including the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, the American Bird Conservatory and Mexico’s Pronatura.


Revolutions Start From The Bottom

Our food choices are deeply connected to climate change. Unbroken Ground, a compelling new Patagonia Provisions film directed by Chris Malloy, explains the critical role food will play in the next frontier of our efforts to solve the environmental crisis.

This film explores four areas of agriculture that aim to change our relationship to the land and oceans. Most of our food is produced using methods that reduce biodiversity, decimate soil and contribute to climate change. We believe our food can and should be a part of the solution to the environmental crisis – grown, harvested and produced in ways that restore our land, water and wildlife. The film tells the story of four groups that are pioneers in the fields of regenerative agriculture, regenerative grazing, diversified crop development and restorative fishing.


Solving Climate Change with Holistic Management

Author: Blain Hjertaas

Fact 1

Carbon is becoming recognized as one of the most significant factors facing mankind. The Keeling observatory in Hawaii began measuring C02 in 1958. At that time the C02 level was 312 PPM. Today we have passed 400 PPM. Significant effort has been expended in talking about limiting future C02 emissions, but to this date no one has talked about reversing the process. The world will continue to warm unless the process is reversed.

Fact 2

Carbon is held in vegetation, soil, oceans and the atmosphere. We know the atmosphere can hold more but we are learning the consequences of this. The oceans hold the most but they are becoming more acidic as their load increases, causing alarm for coral ecosystems. The safe place to store carbon is to increase the organic content of the soil. Agricultural soils on the eastern prairies averaged 12% organic matter at settlement. Today these same soils are between 4-6%.

Fact 3

There is an increasing awareness in the world that something needs to be done about this issue. To date, there has been much discussion about how to limit the problem but nothing on how to solve it. This proposal is a solution.
Fact 4

The Soil Carbon Coalition has been measuring carbon change over time across North America. There are close to 300 sites being monitored with 30 in Western Canada. Some of the early indications are that increasing carbon content in soil is more rapid than originally thought. The first tests were done in 2011 and retested in 2014. All farms are located in South East Saskatchewan. The results ranged from a high of 48.85 tonnes per hectare per year of C02 sequestered to a low of 1.17 tonnes of C02 per hectare per year. This are a very small data set; however these types of findings are being observed world wide as regenerative farmers begin to learn about the benefits of farming in such a way as to return carbon to the soil.