Read­ing land in New Mex­ico


Nor­mally, I don’t hold court at posh re­sorts fea­tur­ing bright-green golf cour­ses. Es­pe­cially on the Satur­day night be­fore Earth Day, I’m li­able to seethe loudly about pompous fair­ways, wa­ter waste, lawn­mower emis­sions, and toxic fer­til­iz­ers, her­bi­cides, pes­ti­cides, fungi­cides, and ro­den­ti­cides.

Golf-re­sort sales de­part­ments rarely re­quest such in­flam­ma­tory rants, so it’s nice to sneak in un­der their radar. But this year I’m par­tic­u­larly tick­led to be re­turn­ing to the Buf­faloThun­der Re­sort and Casino (and golf course) as a LitQuest Gala au­thor, so I feel com­pelled to give the ironic re­sort ku­dos for strongly sup­port­ing LitQuest, its or­ga­niz­ers, and ben­e­fi­cia­ries (namely Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion, Santa Fe Public Schools, and Santa Fe School for the Arts and Sciences).

De­signed to com­bat il­lit­er­acy in New Mex­ico, LitQuest em­bod­ies the ul­ti­mate in cre­ative and suc­cess­ful fundrais­ing. First, a di­verse ar­ray of Land of En­chant­ment au­thors is culled. Next, they pump us full of cock­tails. For din­ner, they split the writ­ers up, one to a ta­ble, and ask us to keep con­ver­sa­tions fo­cused on our work.

Yes, it’s a dreamgig, but the best part is that the 30-plus writ­ers are asked to do­nate a pack­age of five “es­sen­tial” books for a si­lent auc­tion. Although my 2015 lineup is still in its for­ma­tive stages, I know that I will be fos­ter­ing an eco­log­i­cal theme start­ing with Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Al­manac.

While sta­tioned as a ranger in New Mex­ico, Leopold be­came a pi­o­neer in the science of forestry. Much like New­ton dis­cov­ered grav­ity and Curie un­earthed ra­dioac­tiv­ity, Leopold en­light­ened the world to the facts about hu­man-caused soil-ero­sion. The life­long con­ser­va­tion­ist also knew that peo­ple could com­bat ero­sion but that this would prob­a­bly never hap­pen un­less we found a way to make ecol­ogy prof­itable.

As fire sea­son looms in the South­west, it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that Leopold, the fa­ther of mod­ern ecol­ogy, un­der­stood the ne­ces­sity of fire here and that he learned this not by us­ing tra­di­tional book lit­er­acy. Although Leopold was ex­tremely well read, the Yale School of Forestry grad­u­ate had a keen sense of eco­log­i­cal lit­er­acy— how to read land— putting to­gether tell­tale fire scars on tree bark, com­ing to con­clu­sions, and ul­ti­mately de­vel­op­ing and im­ple­ment­ing plans for bring­ing stressed land back to healthy equi­lib­rium.

Soon af­ter com­ing to see fire as nec­es­sary, sadly for New Mex­ico, Leopold took a job in­Wis­con­sin and moved his fam­ily there in 1924. He came back oc­ca­sion­ally, but while help­ing to put out a wild­fire on a neigh­bor’s prop­erty not far from Madi­son, the au­thor died of a heart attack in 1948. He never saw his sem­i­nal 1949 book pub­lished, but his pow­er­ful le­gacy lives on.

Very few New Mex­i­cans re­al­ize our deep con­nec­tion to the foun­da­tion of the en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment. We would likely ben­e­fit if we were to strengthen this un­der­stand­ing. On Satur­day, April 18, at LitQuest 2015, that’s what I’ll be talk­ing about along­side some of the most ironic fair­ways in the world. For more info, please visit (www.litquest­

Nate Downey, the au­thor of Har­vest the Rain, has been a lo­cal land­scape con­sul­tant, designer, and con­trac­tor since 1992. He can be reached at 505-690-7939 or via www.per­made­

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.