The Natural History of the Black Range

The Black Range is located in the southwestern quadrant of New Mexico in the United States.  It does not cover a large area, being roughly 55 miles long and about 18 miles wide (at its widest).  It ranges in elevation from about 5,000 feet to 10,165 feet (the summit of McKnight Mountain).  

There are four aspects to the range which make it an excellent area for the study of natural history.  

Firstly, although a mile of relief may not seem like much, it creates a series of biomes ranging from the desert and grasslands characterized by creosote, mesquite, agave, ocotillo, etc. along the edges of the range to the Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pines, etc.  along the summit ridge.  In between is Juniper/Oak habitat.  Riparian units abound in this area and are markedly defined by the steep terrain. 

Secondly, the geographic location and mass of the range is such that it forms a barrier between the Rio Grande valley on the east side and the Mimbres Valley on the west side.  These two valleys are affected by significantly different weather patterns.  Rain fronts approaching the range from one side or the other often do not make it across the range.  And, of course, the range is high enough to create its own weather.

Thirdly, the Black Range is along the edge of many geographic range limits for both flora and fauna.   Being at the edge of many different geographic ranges means that we have a lot of diversity.  For instance, we have seen 142 bird species in our yard in Hillsboro.

Lastly, a good portion of the Black Range is located within the Aldo Leopold Wilderness.  All in all, it is an area of lots of habitat variety. 

The Black Range has been disturbed by human activities, primarily mining and ranching. The regulation of both is superficial and there are several springs, for instance, which have been reduced to mud holes by cattle because of the lack of statutory and regulatory enforcement.  This fact markedly impacts the study of natural history in the area.  

Much of the land is owned by the people of the United States and administered by the United States Department of Agriculture - Forest Service and the United States Department of Interior - Bureau of Land Management.  Although local ranchers attempt to obfuscate ownership through misleading signage and locked gates, the public/private divide is generally clear and/or easy to determine with research.  Most of the range is open to access.

This site represents my efforts to accurately depict the natural history of the Black Range.  As such it suffers from the gaps of his expertise.  Findings published on this site are linked to other sites should you wish to verify them or are in search of additional information on the topic.

Material provided by other individuals is attributed.  Material provided by individuals other than Bob Barnes is copyrighted by those individuals and they maintain all rights to that material, contact this site for permission to use that material.  

Creative Commons License:  Material published on this site by Bob Barnes is available for your personal use under a Creative Commons License, attribution is required, commercial use is not permitted without explicit written permission, and products produced using this material must me made available under the same Creative Commons License as the original material (CC BY-NC-SA - Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike).

Bob Barnes, Hillsboro, New Mexico

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