Conservation nightmare

Boyce Tankersley
Thu, 24 Jul 2003 09:58:57 PDT
This appears to be an example of a tightly focused short term solution to a complex long term problem. 

I don't think anyone can argue that losing a house to fire is a good thing. 

On the other hand, the fire hazards of building near forested areas in the West are well known. Shouldn't homeowners that build in these fire prone areas be required to carry fire insurance, just like folks that insist on building in flood plains are required to carry flood insurance? 

The gaping hole in this argument (a large one in my opinion)is that everytime there is a catastrophic flood the taxpayers pick up the bill. Guess it would be the same with fire coverage.

In Ruidoso, New Mexico, the town council recently reversed itself and not only allowed homeowners to cut down trees of their property but actually enforced guidelines about the maximum woody plant density permitted. The point being, the homeowners were responsible for the work, not a governmental agency.

As an aside, my family raised Angora goats when I was growing up. There was no fence good enough to keep them in or out of an area. Unlike sheep, they are very intelligent and we often observed them studying an escape problem until they found a solution. They eat everything including the filters of cigarettes and the cellophane wrappings on the cigarette packages without ill effect (young scientific minds at work). The pastures where the goats grazed were 'pruned' of green vegetation from ground level to about 4' high - about the height they could reach while standing on their hind legs. I can remember only 4 plants they didn't eat: bitter weed, a composite that was very poisonous to sheep, a Labitae, mature cacti and mature Juniperus virgiana.

Cabrito; young, tender, pit-barbecued goat was a Fourth of July tradition.

When the price of mohair dropped most ranchers sold off their Angora goat herds in west Texas which helped the woody shrubs but the sheep still ate most of the forbs.

From my perspective, the only people that could conceive of turning goats lose to control vegetation are so passionate about fire control that they have lost their compassion for anything else in a bigger picture. Hopefully a broader perspective will prevail.

Sort of reminds me of the programs to protect our topsoil during the Dust Bowl days that promoted the planting of a lot of non-native plants (kudzu, Lonicera japonica, Rosa multiflora, etc.). Very focused on obtaining a single result. Seventy years after the fact those non-natives that saved the topsoil are now considered to be invasive and a major threat to our natural ecosystems.

Boyce Tankersley

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