traveling the Great Plains and the two Panhandles these past years, I keep running
into places called National Grasslands. In Texas and Oklahoma, they are called
The Rita Blanca National Grasslands; in Kansas, they are named The Cimarron National
Grasslands; in Colorado, The Comanche National Grasslands; and in New Mexico,
The Kiowa National Grasslands. I've not to date found the total acreage, but it
must be hundreds of thousands of acres.
Just how, when and why did the
establishment of these "national" grassland places take place?
to go back to 1933, the worst year of The Great Depression, The Dust Bowl and
the "First Hundred Days" of the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The
nation was trapped in the tragic depression, and farmers were fighting to survive
the worst drought in modern history. The U.S. was in dire straits and would be
hard-pressed to survive.
If farmers in the Great Plains were to remain
on the farms, government aid had to take place and quickly. To implement this
type of aid Roosevelt created the Agriculture Adjustment Administration, which
the farmers shortened to "The Triple A."
Devised to aid farmers in need,
it had strings attached like all government programs. To receive any payments
you had to reduce your acreage and livestock numbers to help reduce the surplus
grains and meat production before prices would rise. These payments were referred
to as "allotment checks."
I can remember my parents waiting to receive
their allotment check in order to buy seed and gas to plant wheat in the fall
Another program of The Triple A was to purchase "sub-marginal"
farm lands, those more subject to blowing than other lands, much of which had
already been abandoned by its owners. Over the course of nine years beginning
in 1934, the government purchased several hundred thousand acres in the heart
of the Dust Bowl areas in order to begin soil reclamation.
plowed the land into deep furrows and planted drought-resistant crops such as
Black Amber Cane and Sudan Grass. When the soil stabilized they replanted with
native grasses and built erosion control terraces and flood-control dams. All
these efforts were done to demonstrate new farming techniques that could return
the lost lands to productivity.
Plagued by low, slow payments, periodic
depleted funding, red tape and continuous changing requirements, the Triple A
programs were cursed and complained about at every turn.
However, the practices
involved worked and helped curb the blowing dust significantly. The return to
productivity is certainly in evidence today by the appearance of the beautiful
Handed off to various government agencies down through
the years, the grasslands are mostly administered by the Bureau of Land Management
branches of the Agriculture Department.
Today, this once-devastated land
stands as a landmark to state planning. They are actually landmarks or monuments
to the great Dust Bowl experience. Next time you see a national grasslands sign,
don't look for blowing dust. The dust stopped here!
"It's All Trew"
Delbert Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can
be reached at 806-779-3164, by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail
at email@example.com. For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears