Annals of adaptation: Cally Carswell on desert cattle

In High Country News, Cally Carswell has a story about the criollo (“a name that is endlessly fun to recite. These are criollo cows. (Try it: cree-oh-yo.)”:

There’s anecdotal evidence that criollo will eat more of the shrubs and tougher grasses on degraded grasslands, but no hard data yet on whether that amounts to a statistically different use of the landscape.

“A lot of people say, ‘Why don’t we go back to buffalo?’ ” Gonzalez muses, bracing himself against the fence. “Well, in dry lands, why don’t we go back to criollo?”

Worth a read.

Stuff I wrote elsewhere: NM water policy tools poorly suited for the job

From this morning’s newspaper, a look at the latest proposal to pump rural groundwater to New Mexico’s populous middle (behind Google surveywall):

Depending on your view of the issue, this is either: a) an innovative approach to bring new water to the Middle Rio Grande Valley, or b) an inappropriate attempt to privatize a public resource that could devastate the rural community where the water originates.

Currently, the proposal has entered a new state of legal limbo, with both proponents and opponents forced to spend money on lawyers to fight it out, but with no clear process for sorting out the underlying questions.

For the record, I’m agnostic on the proposal. My interest is in the process by which we solve these sorts of questions. And on that score, it’s increasingly clear that our current laws and policies are not up to the task of determining whether “a” or “b” is most consistent with our values and long-term interests.

Kelly Redmond to be honored for climate work

Kelly Redmond, deputy director of the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, is being honored at next month’s AGU meeting in San Francisco for being generally awesome.

Kelly’s one of the best climate scientists I’ve ever encountered at overcoming the “loading dock problem“, by which scientists do knowledge and leave it out there in a box for non-scientists to consume. Kelly spends a lot of time working his way around the West, trying to figure out what climate science consumers (like me) need and then acting as a go-between. From DRI’s writeup:

“Kelly is all about climate science and communication credibility – not just among our science colleagues, but with everyone else too. If you want to communicate climate knowledge to decision-makers in the Southwest or Western US (or probably anywhere else), there is no better source of know-how or the energy to get it done than Dr. Kelly Redmond,” one member of the AGU award nomination committee stated, when asked about Redmond’s career.

In the Colorado River Basin, a slow start to the 2014-15 water year

We’re about 20 percent of the way into the fall-winter-spring snow accumulation season in the Colorado River Basin, and the current snowpack upstream of Lake Powell as estimated by the CBRFC is 61 percent of average:

Snowpack above Lake Powell, courtesy CBRFC

Snowpack above Lake Powell, courtesy CBRFC

It is worth remembering, as the Bureau of Reclamation notes in its weekly water supply report (pdf), that “values may vary significantly from week-to-week this early in the water year.”



Persimmons from California's Central Valley

Persimmons from California’s Central Valley

Despite California’s epic drought, there were Central Valley persimmons this afternoon in Talin Market, Albuquerque’s international district grocer, when my sister, Lisa, and I stopped by to pick up a few things.

They were priced at $1.29 a pound, with the box label suggesting they had come all the way from Gridley, Calif., a little town midway between Yuba City and Chico in the valley’s northern stretch. It’s not a big persimmon hot spot, recording just 78 of California’s 4,091 acres of persimmons in the 2012 Census of Agriculture. (pdf here, not surprisingly Fresno County is the state’s largest persimmon producer)

It is interesting to think about how and why persimmons make their way from Gridley to my local Asian market.

New Mexico history, south to north

New Mexico has a relatively short part in the conventional story of the making of the United States from east to west. The older, longer-lasting story of a country made from south to north, or in gridwork and patches with contributions from all over the hemisphere and the world, has resumed there. It is a model of US pluralism, in which no community’s culture is fixed, but peculiar traditions can be upheld without compromising overarching political unity.

That’s Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s optimistic words about my adopted home, in Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States.

Stuff I wrote elsewhere: Drought-tolerant alfalfa

It’s a little thing, this new breed of drought-tolerant alfalfa bred on New Mexico State University research plots in the southern part of my arid state. But it provides another clue (behind a Google surveywall) about what the path forward in western water management might look like:

Adoption of a new crop takes time, so don’t expect NuMex to change agricultural water use overnight. But the crop’s evolution, and other adaptations to water scarcity by U.S. farmers in recent years, illustrates a central finding of a sweeping new federal study released last week: When less water is available, we use less water.