Indicators of Southwestern range conditions. Page: 12
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12 FARMERS' BULLETIN 1782
also be remembered that the former spread slowly on mountain areas
where bunchgrasses are the normal cover. On the Coconino Plateau,
in Arizona, forage cover weakened by overgrazing continued to improve
after 10 years' protection from grazing. There is no greater
fallacy prevalent in the range country than the impression that "one
good seed year will bring back an overgrazed range."
Abnormal Abundance of Indicator Plants
Most of the native plants in the following lists originally were found
in small quantities on ranges that have remained in good condition;
nevertheless, their presence in abundance (often locally dominating
the stand) on any range is sufficient cause for suspecting bad handling
in the past. Some of the more common of these so-called plant indicators
of disturbance are:
Snakeweed, rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus), groundsel (or butterweed)
(Senecio), tumbling Russianthistle (Salsola kali tenuifolia),
pricklepoppy (Argemone), burroweed (Aplopappus fruticosts), and
pilngeii (Actinea richardsoni).
Inferior perennial grasses, including threeawns (Aristida spp.),
burrograss (Scleropogon brevifolius), fluffgrass (Triodia pulehPlla),
and ring muhly (Muhlenbergia torreyi).
Inferior annual grasses, including mat grama (Boute7oua simplex),
sixweeks dropseed (Sporobolus microspermu8s), and false buffalograss
Annual grasses and weeds may occur locally in great abundance
and still not indicate any abnormal condition. For example, over
many desert ranges in southern Arizona the rainfall is inadequate in
amount and distribution to maintain a good stand of perennial grasses
through the many weeks of high summer temperatures. Here, a
heavy growth of "sixweeks forage" perhaps has always followed favorable
winter rains and may develop after favorable summer rains.
The need for knowing the vegetation is thus emphasized by the
introduction, locally, of foreign plants. Russianthistle is an example
of an aggressive introduced weed of limited forage value. Many introduced
plants are weed pests; others are valuable forage plants, for
example, Kelltucky bluegrass and alfileria (Erodium cicutarium),
commonly called "filaree."
Accelerated Soil Erosion
Widespread. serious erosion, when not explained by some condition
beyond man's control, reflects land mistreatment in the past.
However, it should be remembered that there are two broad classes
of erosion. Normal erosion, continuous through the ages, occasionally
and locally has been very rapid, but in general is a very slow
process with which soil development keeps pace. Normal erosion
should be recognized as nothing to be alarmed about; all agricultural
lands have been made by it. Opposed to it, however, is the accelerated
erosion which has been increasing in many parts of the Southwest
for many years and which in most cases is directly the result of man's
occupation of the country. In appraising range conditions, the presence
or absence of this destructive type of erosion (figs. 12 and 13)
is considered an invaluable yardstick in judging proper range use,
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Talbot, M. W. (Murrell Williams), b. 1889. Indicators of Southwestern range conditions., book, December 1957; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc5875/m1/14/?q=%22livestock%22: accessed June 17, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.