Forest Trail #40, Diamond Bar Allotment, Aldo Leopold Wilderness, Gila National Forest, New Mexico. Photo by Mike Hudak. Cattle had turned Forest Trail #40 into a dung strewn dusty swath of bare earth. Even off the trail, though, grass had been clipped nearly to the ground. Photo at UTM coordinates 0774238/ 3687274, Aldo Leopold Wilderness.


Cattle on Forest Trail #40, Diamond Bar Allotment, Aldo Leopold Wilderness, Gila National Forest, Gila National Forest, New Mexico. Photo by Mike Hudak.
Nearby, I observed several head of Diamond Bar Cattle. Photo at UTM coordinates 0774100/3687139 near Forest Trail #40, Aldo Leopold Wilderness.


Bare soil near Forest Trail #40: Diamond Bar Allotment, Aldo Leopold Wilderness, Gila National Forest, New Mexico. Photo by Mike Hudak.
Throughout the allotment I saw large areas where the grass had been grazed close to the ground leaving only exposed soil vulnerable to erosion and invasion by weeds. Photo at UTM coordinates 0773794/3687110 near Forest Trail #40, Aldo Leopold Wilderness.


Forest Trail #716, Middle Mesa, Diamond Bar Allotment, Gila Wilderness, Gila National Forest, New Mexico. Photo by Mike Hudak.
How might the grassland in the previous photo look were cattle not present? Middle Mesa, seven miles to the south, gives an indication. Note the empty stock trough on the upper left. Photo at UTM coordinates 0774865/3676244 on Forest Trail #716, Gila Wilderness.


Dry stock tank, Forest Trail #716, Middle Mesa, Diamond Bar Allotment, Gila National Forest, New Mexico. Photo by Mike Hudak.
Why are there no cattle on the Middle Mesa region of the allotment? Perhaps because this area hadn’t recently received sufficient precipitation to supply the stock tanks. Here we see Middle Mesa Tank #2 devoid of water. Photo at UTM coordinates 0774295/3676119 on Forest Trail #716, Middle Mesa, Gila Wilderness.


Filled stock tank, Forest Trail #40, Diamond Bar Allotment, Gila National Forest, New Mexico. Photo by Mike Hudak.
Back on the Aldo Leopold Wilderness side of the allotment we see a similar stock tank, but one containing water. Water covered by algae and probably polluted with cow dung, but water sufficient to keep the cattle alive. Lack of vegetation around the watering hole testifies to its popularity with cattle. Photo of Pot Hole Tank at UTM coordinates 0775050/3687443 on Forest Trail #40, Aldo Leopold Wilderness.


Kit Laney's cattle at Cobb Well, Diamond Bar Allotment, Aldo Leopold Wilderness, Gila National Forest, New Mexico. Photo by Mike Hudak.
Slightly more than a mile farther east, Cobb Well provides another source of water for Kit Laney’s cattle. Note the “Diamond Bar” brand on the cow at the center of the photo. The region around the well exhibited all the characteristics of a cattle “sacrifice area”: large patches of bare soil carpeted with cow dung. What little grass remained had been grazed to the ground and the sagebrush had been broken and stripped. Photo near Cobb Well at UTM coordinates 0777869/3687223, Aldo Leopold Wilderness.


Cobb Well, Diamond Bar Allotment, Aldo Leopold Wilderness, Gila National Forest, New Mexico. Photo by Mike Hudak. Closer view of the Cobb Well region showing effects of intense grazing and trampling by cattle. Note the two white salt blocks in the upper portion of the photo. Salt, a necessity for cattle, is an attraction in addition to the nearby water. Since salt tends to sterilize the soil, its dispersion, either by trampling or precipitation, can cause damage that lasts for decades after an area is no longer used for salting. Photo at UTM coordinates 0777869/3687223, Aldo Leopold Wilderness.

Text and Photos © 2004– by Mike Hudak, All Rights Reserved