By Dr. Hildy Reiser, For the Alamogordo Daily News
October 24, 2012
I have been a resident of Otero County for 18 1/2 years, an avid native plants gardener for over 17 1/2 years, and a wildlife ecologist and natural resources professional for more than 30 years.
I have been to many beautiful places in the U.S. and abroad, and though my slide trays, photo albums and digital files are full, there are always a few scenic wonders that stay in my memories forever: the call of loons on northern Minnesota lakes; Shoshone Point, on the edge of the south rim of the Grand Canyon; redwoods shrouded in mist in northern California; and soaring lammergeiers in the Pyrenees.
And to this list I would add the grasslands of Otero Mesa.
Otero Mesa has meaning in all three areas listed above that help define me. As a resident for nearly two decades in Otero County, it is a privilege to be a part of an effort to save one of the last few intact Chihuahuan desert grasslands as a national monument.
Every citizen of New Mexico, and especially the citizens of this county, should feel a sense of pride that we are fortunate to have this beautiful landscape at our doorstep; to have bragging rights for having this grassland within our county’s borders.
As an avid native plant enthusiast, I have been a member of the New Mexico Native Plant Society-Otero Chapter, for more than 15 years. My husband and I have nearly 200 native plants representing more than 50 species in our gardens. I can honestly say that on one of my many trips to Otero Mesa, this was one of the first places that I saw the plants from my gardens blooming in a wild; blooming in their own nature scape.
I still remember the blackfoot daisies, chocolate flower, penstemons and desert marigolds. I was so thrilled; I kept repeating to the small group I was with, “I have this in my garden, and this. So that’s how these plants look in the wild.” I can tell you these plants were far more magnificent on the mesa than in my garden.
And last, but not least, I have a great appreciation of Otero Mesa from a scientific and ecological perspective. Here on the mesa, we actually have a fully functioning ecosystem, with the exception of the loss of two top carnivores — the Mexican gray wolf and Mexican grizzly bears. Otero Mesa can serve as a natural laboratory to teach future biologists and range conservationists and our children.
In closing I would like to share a few of my favorite quotes from Also Leopold, the father of wildlife ecology and the land conservation ethic:
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, the stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
“To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
“That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics.”
This article was submitted by Otero County Citizens for Otero Mesa. Conservation initiatives work best when they build on local efforts. People are welcome to write an article. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.