From the morning paper, a look at the wet bits and the dry bits at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge during a drought, and the challenge of mimicking nature:
Some years, like this one, drought comes to the refuge in a way that matches what we would have seen in a drought year a century ago. The beloved “boardwalk pond” at the refuge’s south end, home to cormorants and pelicans, was nothing but cracked mud when Mize took Brose and I on a tour last week. There was so little water in the ditch feeding pond this year that it finally just dried up, Mize said.
To my look of concern, Mize responded with a wildlife manager’s calm equanimity: “Healthy wetlands are fluctuating wetlands,” he explained. “Drought is a natural occurrence. Our landscape evolved with drought.”
To the south, Mize showed us how refuge crews had cleared out unnatural thick stands of cattail that had choked one of the refuge’s ponds, taking advantage of drought to bring the system back to a more “natural” state. The pond is in an old river channel that in some years would have dried in drought, and in other years been ripped clear by spring floods. A consistent water supply has, in the past, given the pond a spectacular stand of cattails – lovely, but requiring human intervention to get “nature” back on an even keel.
Hence the dried-up pond and ripped-out cattails. “This is what Mother Nature would have done,” Mize said.
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