Forest Dynamics: Today, New Mexico's forests are very dense and uniform. There simply aren't a lot of openings. But the writings and photographs from the turn of the century tell a different story: groves of trees of different sizes. Saplings and very large trees were equally represented, and they were often separated by grass.

The answers for these changes, an NMSU scientist says lies deep in the past, especially a 40-year interlude starting in the late 1800s when there truly was a Wild, Wild West filled with miners, railroad barons, Texas cattlemen and the first steps toward federal fire suppression.

"A lot of us have the feeling that the forest is natural and that we shouldn't mess with it," says Bob Cain, a forest entomologist with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "But what we have is not a pristine natural forest. What we have is a forest greatly altered by the activities of man for more than 100 years. And because the forest is in a condition that is no longer natural, we have a responsibility to manage the forest and deal with the conditions that have been created."