Recognizing history in range ecology: 100 years of science and management on the Santa Rita Experimental Range

TitleRecognizing history in range ecology: 100 years of science and management on the Santa Rita Experimental Range
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsSayre N.F.
Conference NameConference Proceedings, Santa Rita Experimental Range: 100 years (1903 to 2003) of accomplishments and contributions. RMRS-P-30
Date PublishedOctober 30-Novem
PublisherU.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
Conference LocationTucson, AZ
ARIS Log Number163893
Keywordscarrying capacity, Frederic Clements, history, mesquite, range ecology, range science, semiarid rangelands
AbstractAt the centennial of the Santa Rita Experimental Range, historical analysis is called for on two levels. First, as a major site in the history of range ecology, the Santa Rita illuminates past successes and failures in science and management and the ways in which larger social, economic, and political factors have shaped scientific research. Second, with the turn away from equilibrium-based models in range sciencea turn prompted in part by research at the Santa Ritathere is a growing need for history in range ecology itself. I discuss the needs, premises, and events underlying establishment of the Santa Rita in 1903. Then I examine the evolution of research and management recommendations through four major periods from 1901 to 1988, and I discuss the land swap that transferred the Santa Rita to State ownership in 1988 to 1991. Finally, I consider what effects the Santa Rita has had on rangelands and range management in the region. I argue that a static conception of the carrying capacity of Southwestern rangelands was imposed for economic and political reasons, over the objections or reservations of early range scientists at the Santa Rita, and that this may have contributed both to range depletion and to rancorous relations between public agencies and private ranchers in the twentieth century. To meet society’s current demands on rangelands, the long-term, large-scale data assembled from the Santa Rita will be critically important.