Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wrenching News

I don't think I can report dispassionately the latest developments in the Horseshoe Two Fire, raging in the Chiricahua Mountains. When the fire jumped containment lines near Saulsbury Saddle, it roared through Rustler Park, Onion Saddle, Barfoot Park, and the high ridges so familiar to everyone who has roamed the high Chiricahuas. I am hearing from friends who are heartbroken. It is too soon to know just what has been lost.

In the other direction, fire raced in high winds through the village of Paradise, toward Whitetail Canyon, and Helen reported that last night Jhus Canyon was burning, next to Whitetail. So far people's homes and historic structures like the George Walker House in Paradise have been spared, thanks to thorough preparatory work by fire crews.

After the two weeks of very hard work by Dugger Hughes' Type 1 fire team, they have to feel terribly disheartened at the end of their rotation here, to see the fire escape because two firebrands were thrown by high winds, and started new fires 1.5 and 2 miles away. But without their valiant efforts, the outcome would have been so much worse. We likely would have seen the eradication of communities too.

We have been very focused, understandably, on the crisis in our backyard. Similar fires are raging throughout drought-stricken Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas. The Bear Wallow Fire near Alpine AZ just started, and yet blew to over 100,000 acres in just two days, as it roars through pine forest on the Mogollon Rim.

South of the border in Mexico, the entire Sierra Madre Occidental has been going up in flames, and Mexico does not have the resources which we have to deal with fire. So it is all just burning. "Sierra Madre" means the "Mother Mountains" and they are the heart of the habitats we so treasure in the Chiricahuas and other sky islands of the Southwest. The Sierra Madre has been an evolutionary cauldron for New World pine trees, and oaks, and madrones. They are the home of Eared Quetzals, Mountain Trogons, Thick-billed Parrots--and, of course, people.

You can see the extent of the fires on Google Earth. Many Norteamericanos have traveled the rail between Los Mochis and Chihuahua City, which runs through Copper Canyon and Tarahumara country. People in Portal have often sent supplies--ranging from clothes to school supplies to vitamins--to the mission school in Creel (visits which ceased when violence in Mexico escalated to the point that friends in Mexico advised against further trips for the time being). That region is burning. I may have missed something, but so far I haven't seen a single report in US newspapers about the plight of our neighbors to the south and the immense fires they are suffering.

The Border communities that are bearing the brunt of problems associated with illegal trafficking (fires, killings, home break-ins) are also communities with deep ties to Mexico. Many of us have travelled there for decades. We have led tours there, working with Mexican co-leaders. Our schools have exchange programs. Our biologists have worked with Mexican biologists to monitor and conserve species that are important to both countries, whether jaguars, or waterfowl, or parrots, or native fish, or prairie dogs. The cross-border relationship is vibrant, mutually beneficial, and highly valued.

We can affirm our continuing goodwill and friendship with Mexico while still acknowledging the serious border problems. It is important that other regions of the US understand that the border problems are real and must be addressed. Distant problems are all too easy to ignore. Please know that the outcry in Border communities is not based on prejudice, for the most part, but on actual, serious problems, which must be dealt with for the good of the whole country.

Mexicans are and have been our friends, and we lament the crises they are now suffering--crises of drug-related violence, of rampant fire, of economy.


  1. In preparation for the monsoons here are 2 references on erosion control that may be of use.

  2. I was able to get to the blog through my browser Favorites list. This is such distressing news.

    On the border issues, have you read, "Crossers" by Philip Caputo? Fictional account of an American ranch family's interactions across the border for many decades. Very poignant look from multiple angles at the impact on people from both sides of the border.

  3. Hi Kathy, I haven't been able to access Facebook to respond to your posts there, and your email isn't on the iPad, so I'm glad that you posted to the blog. You have mentioned "Crossers" before, and I do want to track it down, but haven't yet done that. Others will likely want to read it too--thanks!