Twelve Hundred Miles by Horse and Burro

J. Stokley Ligon and New Mexico’s First Breeding Bird Survey

Harley Shaw (Author), Mara E. Weisenberger (Author)
Paperback ($29.95) Buy

J. Stokley Ligon’s work in bird conservation, habitat protection, and wildlife legislation during the mid-twentieth century is well-documented in his own writing and the writing of others. But hovering in the background of Ligon’s life story has always been the rumor of a trip he made alone as a young man in 1913 in which he covered much of New Mexico alone on horseback. Details of the trip had faded into history, and Ligon—a self-effacing man—had never published the story.

As it turns out, the trek was Ligon’s first job with the US Biological Survey, and it did not go entirely undocumented. The breeding bird population report that eventually resulted from the journey, photographs from glass plate negatives, and—perhaps most enticingly—Ligon’s own personal diary from these travels are presented here. Not just a compelling account of the expedition itself, the materials and insights found in this volume also reveal aspects of Ligon’s family history, his early interest in wildlife, and the development of the wilderness skills needed to undertake such a survey.

Using his original itinerary and handwritten report, the authors of this book revisited many of the places that Ligon surveyed and in a few cases were even able to locate and repeat Ligon’s early photographs. Combined with a discussion of the conditions of birds and other wildlife then and now, this volume serves as a useful tool for understanding how wildlife numbers, distribution, and habitats changed in New Mexico over the course of the twentieth century.

Birding enthusiasts, historians, naturalists, and even armchair adventurers will all find something to love in this chronicle of a young man from a West Texas ranching family with a driving ambition to be a professional naturalist and writer.

"A snapshot of the environment of New Mexico early in the twentieth century, a pivotal time in the Southwest, through the eyes of a naturalist who was doing biological research the old way." --Rose Houk, author of The Mountains Know Arizona: Images of the Land and Stories of Its People


"This is an interesting account of a 1200 mile solo journey of a gentle mountain man from that period in our history." –Wildlife Activist


"Shaw and Weisenberger have determinedly pursued the sparse details of Ligon's life, to our great benefit. While the book's main focus is the story of Ligon's first job as a professional wildlife biologist, it goes well beyond that. Ligon's life and work represent the transition from a consumptive, economics-driven biology to a more-holistic, ecological view of life." –Tucson Weekly
Twelve Hundred Miles by Horse and Burro
264 Pages 6 x 9 x 0.7 Published: 2011 Paperback (9780816528615)

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