Just east of the Davy Crockett National Forest lies a little patch of red dirt I might one day call home. Douglass, Texas… crazy as it sounds, this place has a lot to offer. Pine trees, rich soils, natural springs, loving family and some of the most beautiful land in Texas are just a few of pleasures I have the good fortune to enjoy before my adventures ahead.
But is is all pleasure, the drought has hit this land particularly hard. Ponds and creeks are almost entirely dried up. Livestock and wildlife are struggling, not just to stay hydrated but to stay fed. Typical pastureland does not weather these arid extremes well… in fact, typical pastureland does not weather any extremes very well.
The vegetation is all but missing from the landscape this year. What is left hardly appeals to the ranging cattle. Many ranchers have sold off their herds early and those who haven’t have had to invest a lot in imported feed to keep them going. Either way, conditions like these make ranching a costly venture.
To make an already bleak situation worse, it seems when the high-pressure front that has hovered over most of Texas all summer, and prevented many a storm front from quenching this parched landscape, has at last moved on, it does so not with much needed rain but rather with raging winds.
As I write this, there are evacuations just minutes up the road from where I sit. The smell of smoke hangs in the air and an orange glow lights up the sky to the North West. All that lies between my parents sapped land and a devastating inferno is a pine forest (tinderbox) and a small band of dedicated firefighters.
For us, fortunately, we will be spared this evening. The winds are in our favor and the flames are unlikely to make it this far tonight. Here’s to hoping the winds don’t shift!
Other’s have not been so lucky. Continuing to add insult to injury, this summer will not subside without great losses to land, livestock, homes and wildlife. The thousands of acres ablaze across Bastrop and all throughout Texas today is an unfortunate example.
There are no easy solutions to the situation we are witness to this year. And, with the continual degradation of our landscape through deforestation, ecological neglect and agricultural misunderstandings there is a good chance the situation will get worse before it improves.
Not only is this trend held in place by many causes, it also doesn’t seem to be localized to just Texas. All across the world, deserts are expanding while natural forests decline at alarming rates.
Despite the obvious challenges, there is a lot that we can do to turn this trend around… but it’s going to take quite a shift from our current practices of land management. What we need is a holistic approach. Building on systems such as Holistic Land Management, Permaculture and reforestation efforts we can begin to rebuild our soils, buffer damage from natural disasters, recharge our springs, aquifers and rivers, and even increase precipitation.
These changes are going to require a great deal of cooperative effort on our part. Only by working together are we going to be able to have any substantial recuperative impact on our environment.