Here in New Mexico, people have been substituting their lawns for rock mulch at a record pace. Rock mulch is as damaging as anything ever dreamed up by “xeriscapers”.
One of the easist things to notice about rock mulch is that it increases the ambient temperature around your home by 10-20°F during the day, putting a heavy load on your airconditioning. It also stresses the desert plants planted into the rock mulch. Plant one drought resistant tree, on the west side if possible, and mulch with organic matter.
The biggest desert in the United States, the Great Basin, was once prairie that sustained Buffalo and a indigenous population that depended on Buffalo and the large variety of plants that grow in a prairie.
As their population increased, they started burning lands to the east to turn it into prairie, then reburn encroaching trees when it got too brushy for Buffalo. The intent was to increase soft prairie species that Buffalo eat, because Buffalo cannot keep trees eaten down.
As the trees were burned out to the east, so were prairie lands to the west drying up and turning to desert.
This is an easy reversal.
I lived over 20 years on Texas prairie. Texans maintain it as such, not by burning, but by petroleum and shredders. The land sprouts trees! You cannot imagine my dumbfounded shock when I realized that Texas is actually part of the eastern woodlands. Not even Savanna… the trees are too dense for Savanna, although the Great Basin would likely return to Savanna if….
I suspect I am the only one who acknowledges this plummy concept because of the amount of yap about burning and controlled burning and investment in the idea that First Nations did not impact their environment like Europeans did. Even back east, First Nations created meadows to increase deer populations. Because they ate locally and did not ship produce to other nations, they had no incentive to destroy their home for trade. They did trade, but not on that unsustainable level.
Nevertheless, the expense of this endless attempt to destroy woodlands and turn them into prairies is hard to calculate because although there are many articles about doing just that, no one seems to acknowledge that large parts of the central US are not naturally prairie. Millions of square miles, for sure.
This expensive devastation was called “shredding” or “brush hogging” by my neighbors in North Texas. Even as they were killing young trees 1 to 4 times a year, they believed they were living on the prairie. The government and universities are worse, they call this devastation “mechanical controls in brush management.” Snort. I cannot say something like that with a straight face.
This devastion is going away because it is not sustainable to spend trillions of dollars to create prairie where woodlands grow. Let’s talk silviculture, Texas! Cattle do well in Oregon rainforests, too, ya know.
As the Era of Big Oil passes, these excesses will pass too, because unlike nomadic tribes, we cannot burn everything down. Burning is seriously cheap! I’ve seen controlled burns in Texas, but the financial risks get higher every year. Oops… you just burned $6 million in homes for a 40 acre field that will sell a couple thousand in hay… hmmmmm. If nothing else, insurance companies will put a halt to it by refusing coverage. Watch out because Debtor’s Prison is sneaking in to the United States, bit by bit. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is on film advocating selling debtors into slavery. Burn your field and end up in slavery… the American Dream.
Silviculture. Pecans, walnuts, persimmons, apples, plums, yum. Stop burning trees and allow trees to make money for you.
The biggest effect for human beings would be an increase in rainfall. Our western states are kept unnaturally dry by this endless desertification process in our middle states. Even our Midwestern breadbasket is draining the Oglala Aquifer at a scary rate. That too will be gone.
Let the trees grow and quit breaking the natural water cycle. Millions of people living in the dry west will love the extra inches of rain every year and will stop bidding against you for your water supplies. Texas is in a massive ongoing legal battle with Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California in an endless war for water. Billions spent fighting while trillions are spent creating a desert. Did I mention my dumbfounded jaw-dropping shock? We have other things to spend all that money on! Baubles! Old folks! Persimmon trees! Original art! Pecan trees! Name your own favorite in here.
Destroying trees for low value crops cannot continue, so you may as well get ahead of the curve and manage your trees for nuts, fruits, and timber value. I will write about turning wild brush into valuable silviculture, food forest, orchards, etc.