Carrizo Valley Ranch

CARRIZO VALLEY RANCH

Courtesy of Carrizo Valley Ranch

Conservation plays a dominant role on the Carrizo Valley Ranch. Unbeknownst to Sid Goodloe, his restoration efforts embody the spirit and vision of Aldo Leopold, who was the famous conservation author of Sand County Almanac.

In 1956, Sid Goodloe, a young West Texan, who had worked on and managed ranches in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona, purchased the 3,450-acre Carrizo Valley Ranch, 16 miles north of Capitan, New Mexico. Although the purchase price was reasonable, the land was in poor condition. Roads from the early homesteads eroded into deep gullies and the land was denuded, overgrazed and abused by year-long grazing. A region seared by drought and fire suppression further compounded the condition of the ranch. There were only two viable options that Sid considered, “improve the ranch or starve”. He began his long, trial-by-error journey to restore the Carrizo Valley Ranch back to its pre-settlement condition.

He implemented rotational grazing; thinned and removed invading species of trees and brush to allow native grasses to resume growth and dominance; built dams to protect the riparian areas; used sales of fuel wood from the thinned trees and brush to pay the cost for more restoration; set prescribed burns to control fuel levels; and developed a breed of cattle more suited to the arid climate of the south central mountains of New Mexico. His diligent efforts increased the amount of water returning to the aquifer and more game species favored the habitat on Carrizo Valley Ranch than the nearby public land managed by the United States Forest Service. The key to restoration success is “to achieve a properly functioning watershed, then everything else falls into place,” stated Sid. It took him several years to figure out that land stewardship principle. He wished that he would have been more familiar with the teachings of Aldo Leopold’s land ethic earlier as it would have saved him a lot of effort in his trial and error methodology.

CARRIZO VALLEY RANCH

Courtesy of Carrizo Valley Ranch

It was important to Sid that he leave the Carrizo Valley Ranch to his children. He wanted to protect family ranching so that his heirs could raise their children in a rural environment and for the ranch to remain forever as open space and in agricultural use rather than being developed. To achieve his goals, he established the Southern Rockies Agricultural Land Trust to preserve working ranches like his through voluntary, private conservation easements.

Like Aldo Leopold, Sid is dedicated to teaching principles of good land stewardship by not only conducting tours of the Carrizo Valley Ranch, but also through presentations to environmentalists as well as agriculturists. He especially wants to share the message that “successful management of the land means helping it to return to its natural strengths for the long-term rather than for short-term gain.”

If you are in the area, stop by the ranch for a powerful conservation lesson by one of the most prominent land stewards of this century, Sid Goodloe.