The Pitchfork Ranch
Just west of the Continental Divide, at 5100’ elevation in southwest New Mexico, lies Pitchfork Ranch — mountainous with rolling Chihuahuan grassland — one of the most biologically diverse arid regions in the world.
The Pitchfork Ranch, South of Silver City, New Mexico, comprises nearly 12,000 checker-boarded, split-estate acres of Tabosa-dominated grassland with over 200 documented plants, including 70 grasses, juniper, willow, oak, ash, hackberry, Arizona walnut and wild grape in the cañyon.
The Plan to Restore
Grade control structures are helping the ciénaga and surrounding land to reclaim itself, reconnect surface and groundwater. The plan includes:
Reaching Our Goals
The overarching goal for this ranch is habitat repair using "flood-n-flow" restoration practices and accompanying sediment deposition to nudge the ciénaga and surrounding land toward its pre-settlement condition - to get the water back.
Evidence of success is revealed, as a result of ongoing installation of grade control structures that support ciénaga recovery, and help the surrounding land to reclaim itself by reconnecting surface and groundwater.
Restoration, Wildlife & Carbon Sequestration
The Grant County Native Plant Society makes periodic trips to the ranch for plant study and identification. In 2009, Gene Jercinovic — a member of the group with a particular interest in smaller plants — found a species he could not identify. Gene made inquiries to Euphorbia specialists, who believed the Pitchfork plant to be a common spurge. Gene persisted and convinced experts that his group had discovered a new species, previously unknown to science . . .
The Mimbreño People
Around 200 CE, significant changes occurred in the lives of people living beyond the Mimbres river, 30-miles east of the Pitchfork Ranch. The Mimbreño people moved to hill tops or ridges along the river 350 years before moving into the valley. Around 1130 CE they dispersed because of drought, overuse and overpopulation — mistakes we still make today. Southwest Archaeology of Tucson identified 21 Mimbres sites along the Burro Ciénaga on the Pitchfork . . .
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In addition to the Euphorbia rayturneri, the Pitchfork Ranch has six other species listed as endangered: Chirichahua leopard frog, Gila topminnow, Aplamado falcon, Wright’s Marsh Thistle, Viceroy butterfly, and the Coatimundi. Species extinction continues silently as so many species are not big noticeable creatures, such as rhinos and tigers. Insects, reptiles and plants are given little importance or attention - especially species with small ranges and specific habitat needs . . .
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We avoid referring to ourselves as “ranchers,” preferring “ranch owners” because there is a clear difference between a “cowman” and retirees using an historic cattle ranch for restoration, wildlife, and carbon sequestration. This is a “restoration ranch” demonstration project with a plan to restore land & water, promote healthy habitat, and provide an example of how everyone can adopt these practices, including Grass-fed and Finished Beef, on land of multiple uses of any size . . .
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