Otero Mesa – the last of the desert grasslands

When I speak with friends about desert grasslands, a look of confusion registers in their faces.  Some people probably think desert and grasslands go together like oil and water.  That’s only because they haven’t seen desert grasslands; and it’s not their fault, there’s not many of these unique ecosystems left in the Desert Southwest due to overgrazing and other shortsighted land management practices.

One of the last surviving and best examples of a Chihuahuan Desert grassland is the 1.2 million acre Otero Mesa grassland area, located about 40 miles northeast of El Paso in Southern New Mexico.  As usual, there is a war between environmentalists who want this area preserved as a National Monument or wilderness area and oil and gas people seeking short term profits from a land whose fragility they know nothing of.

Otero Mesa is one of the last healthy desert grasslands dominated by Black Grama (Bouteloua eriopoda).  To see such an abundance of Black Grama can only mean one thing – that there was no overgrazing during European settlement times; a rare occurrence.  Overgrazing at any level will easily kill Black Grama, resulting in the early stages of desertification of the grassland.

Having lived in the Trans-Pecos region of the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas for almost 2 years, I can attest to the beauty and uniqueness that is a desert grassland. It is not quite a prairie and not quite a desert, but something else altogether; rich in flora and fauna and wide open spaces, making one forget about the rat race of civilization, the madness of progress, and the daily bombardments of modern living. Desert grasslands are Mother Nature in her element, her full regalia of life and death, hope and renewal.

For further information on the importance of saving Otero Mesa from future developments of any kind, as well as to get involved with the Coalition for Otero Mesa, click here.
To learn more about the “Otero Mesa: America’s Wildest Grassland” campaign (which has been on-going since 2001), and how to support and take action for preservation of an historic landscape, click here.

I don’t want to make this a political post, but this year’s election has huge implications as to whether or not Otero Mesa will receive the protection it deserves.  Read and learn, and get out and vote!

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