Date: December 2004
Creator: Forbes, William
Description: The Rio Gavilan watershed, located in Mexico 's northern Sierra Madre Occidental , has significance in conservation history. Upon visiting the remote, largely undeveloped watershed during two hunting trips in the 1930s, renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold thought it was the best picture of land health he had seen. His main indicators of healthy land were slow water runoff rates regulating erosion and historical predator-prey relationships. The visits confirmed Leopold's concept of land health, inspired many of his essays, and helped shape his land ethic. Leopold proposed the area as a control site to research healthy land throughout North America . The proposal never went forward and the area has since been more intensively logged and grazed. This dissertation research used extensive literature review, archives, oral histories, citizen surveys, and rapid assessment of forest, rangeland, riparian, and socioeconomic health to assess impacts of past cultures and update the area's land health status. Projects that could restore land health, such as linked eco-tourism, forest density reduction, and rotational grazing, were assessed for feasibility. Recent critiques of Leopold's land ethic were also reviewed. Results indicate most pre-1940s impacts were light, current land health status is moderate, and local interest exists in restoring land ...
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