Tracks in the Desert

Thanks to an industrious ATV rider, today we take it upon ourselves to become involved with maintenance rather than our usual naturalist work.  We are spending the morning raking over tire tracks engraved upon the desert surface like a giant wound.

Even though signs practically litter the desert informing vehicles and drivers to remain on the roads, a hot shot has felt the need to leave his imprints on virgin land by careening an arc up a nearby hill and down the other side before rejoining the road.

Tracks in the Desert
Tracks in the Desert

Today is hot and windy, but we decide to erase as much of the destruction as possible before others follow suit.  As we rake, sand and dirt loosened by this careless act stings our bare legs as the wind whips up the particles and slings them our way.  Undisturbed desert soil generally does not blow away, tacked in place by a mosaic of little stones and roots of little plants.  But here in the wake of tracks carved by an inconsiderate, self-centered joy rider, stones are cast aside and plants are ripped from the ground.  Burrows that allow shelter for animals from scorching desert heat and hungry predators are squashed as well.

If they could only catch this guy, I think, they should make him rake away his tracks!

Desert damage repair 004
Raking away tracks

Ignorance is undoubtedly the source of this destruction.  Who would knowingly devastate the integrity of the desert and open the ground to allow access to invasive species much as an open sore allows bacteria entrance to a body?

Ignorance is also the source of prejudice.  And in the realm of prejudice, much has been said and done to educate against it, including “Sensitivity Training.”  Education is the key.  Why can’t we require those who rape our lands to attend Sensitivity Training to educate them on the effects they have on fragile environment and habitat thousands of years in development?

But can we blame those who rip up the land?  Or do we blame their main form of education – car and truck advertisements that glorify pseudo macho immature mentality that panders to immediate gratification.  In an effort to imitate what they interpret as manly pursuits seen on TV, these individuals feel obliged to prove that they are capable of duplicating, or even surpassing, these stunts.

As the sun beats down and dust swirls about us in sudden gusts, we rake the last bits of rock and soil over the scars, knowing that the prospect of apprehending such an individual or individuals in this remote region is almost nil.  We know, too, that the job we finish here does nothing more than mask the original landscape, centuries in the making.  Dust will fly in succeeding winds, and erosion will carry away the loosened soil.

A reckless act committed on a whim by one bequeaths long lasting effects for all.

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