Drouth, man creating havoc in Rockies

Spring is trying like crazy to get a foothold, and we’re all pulling for it to happen. It’s been a nice winter as far as temperatures go. We’ve hardly had any morning lows that dropped below the zero mark. In some ways that’s good, but, in other ways that’s not so good. I don’t know how many of you traveled into New Mexico or Colorado last summer, but if you did you noticed lots and lots (whole mountain sides) of our pinon pine trees dying. The reason for this is two-fold. Primarily there is the drouth. The pinon pines are just plain ol’ drying up. There wasn’t enough ground moisture to keep them alive. The soil moisture finally withdrew too far into the earth to be retrievable by the trees roots. Going along with this is the ever-present mountain pine beetle. They always register at least at the 7 mark on the bad scale, even in wet years. So, when a number of dry years come along they register at about the 10 plus mark. Now here’s the “real deal.” If our winter temperatures don’t go below the zero mark for about 14 consecutive days the pine beetles go crazy. They’re lying within the body of a last year’s victim just snoozing away in the form of larva. Well, these delicate little larva bags need to deep-freeze their little arses off to keep them under control. If the temperature is mild’like it was this year’those little devils have a grand ol’ time just waiting to hatch into beetles of mass destruction. The pinons, however, might be able to fend some of them off this year because there is considerably more moisture than last year. You’d never know it by reading or listening to the national (Eastern) press but cool, colorful Colorado’s been in a drouth now for five years. Remember last summer’ Hundreds of thousands of acres burned up. Lots of local, rural water systems went dry for the first time in their history. Every reservoir in Colorado was at an all-time low. The Front Range (mountains just west of Denver) recently received over seven feet of the white stuff (snow) due to a rare upslope winter storm. That’s going to help the east side of the state a great deal. But, the latest is that the towns along the Front Range will still be under water restrictions. The experts tell us it will take two or three more really wet years to repair the drouth damage and get all the reservoirs once again full. Let’s hear it for two or three more really wet years! We live on the west side of the continental divide. Our mountain snow situation is almost at 100 percent of average. However, where we live in West Central Colorado (high mountain desert) we’re still hurting. We’ve only had about 50 inches of snow this winter. That equates out to about 5 inches of moisture. This will come as a surprise, but that’s not much moisture for an entire winter’s worth (six months) of precipitation. Our hope now is that the spring rains hit with a vengeance: Take no prisoners, I say. The destruction caused by the pine beetle is natural as are most of the forest fires. Things pretty quickly return to normal. It always amazes folks how quickly the forests are able to reestablish themselves after a fire. FYI: That’s why the aspen tree is called the “Mother of the Forest.” The aspen quickly cover the burned areas and shade the struggling little spruce and fir trees, allowing them to get a foothold. The spruce and fir soon grow really big, crowd out and eventually kiss the aspen good-bye. Thanks, Mom. On the other hand we two-legged creatures love to engage in non-natural destruction and things don’t come back so quickly, if ever. The only land that ever should be considered wasteland is land laid waste by man. Everything left untouched by man is still beautiful. Luckily most of you have the mineral rights under your land. Not so in the mountain states. The feds bought all of this up around the turn of the last century for pennies on the dollar. In essence, they swooped in and consequently paid nothing for the right to drill an oil or gas well in your front yard, pollute your water supply, cobweb your ranch with nonsensical roads and spread noxious weeds as far as the eye can see. These oil and gas-drilling folks always show up with hat in hand and then methodically destroy your personal environment. They then deny the hell out of it in court. These guys make the Enron folks look like Sunday school teachers. If you’ve never experienced true “drilling industry footprints” just head for La Plata County or Garfield County, Colo. There is some good news, however. A district court jury in a Sheridan, Wyo. recently awarded Buck Brannaman (Buck is the horse trainer on whom “The Horse Whisperer” is based) and his wife, Mary, $810,887 for trashing their ranch. The judge really wagged his finger (and with good reason) at the drilling company for invading and destroying the man’s home with total disregard and abandonment of any and all reasoning. There is at least one politician in Washington, D.C. who is extremely highly thought of and heaven forbid, honest. He’s a war veteran and former guest of the Hanoi Hilton’Arizona Sen. John McCain. He has access to and knows all the facts. He recently voted his conscience (another rare find) and voted not to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Can you believe it . .. . a real live national senator of the ballooning deficit party not in the back pocket of the oil industry’ The age of miracles is not over. Luckily, the bill failed to pass yet again. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was set aside as a national treasure when cooler heads prevailed and it should stay just that. It’s made up exclusively of mountains, tundra and wildlife. In the case of tundra (land above timberline) it takes one cushion plant (about the size of a pin cushion) 100 years to recover – if it’s still alive after the injury. For 200 years we two-legged creatures have marched across the United States of America and destroyed everything in our path. I would hope one day we can breed out this insatiable human desire of ours for destroying things. A great old Native American proverb says, “Be kind to everything that lives.” Now why haven’t we ever thought along those lines, I wonder’ There is almost no place left without roads. We humans just love roads and clear cutting and ripping and tearing and jumping up and down on this or then that. “Leave no stone unturned” has been our motto, and we’ve outdone ourselves. We should be proud. Finally the U. S. Congress comes up with a nice piece of Alaskan wilderness to be preserved for perpetuity, and it drives the oil and gas industry completely nuts. “We’ll leave no footprints,” I see they’re saying again. Har, har . . . I say. Bulldozers and drilling rigs and all equipment of mass destruction are not famous for entering traffic unnoticed. It’s also pretty reliable knowledge that no one, and I mean no one, has a clue how much, if any, oil is under this pristine little jewel of wilderness area. Believe me, we don’t need the oil. Especially since we now have Iraq. Halliburton and Root already have the contract to reclaim, refurbish, drill and then redirect the vast abundance of oil found in the Iraqi oil fields. We all know there’s oil there as well as off shore in the banana republic state of Florida, should we also want to drill close to home. If you’re looking for a non-arm- chair quarterback to tell it like it is on the Middle Eastern front, just tune in to Queen Noor, American widow of King Hussein I of Jordan, the next time she’s on television. She knocked Larry King’s socks off the other night on Larry King Live. Her new book,” Leap of Faith,” is currently Number One on the New York best-seller’s list. Thought for the Day: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” Mickey Smith, aka Obi-Won Kenobi, lives a monk-like existence on Fruitland Mesa in West Central Colorado and is not all that hot on seeing the rest of the world go the way of the dodo bird just so asphalt babies can ride around in their gasoline guzzlers and pollute the planet even more than it’s already been polluted.

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