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Quivira Coalition Improves Rangelands and Prevents Fist Fights

Packed house at the Quivira 2016 conference listening to Wes Jackson of the Land Institute.
Packed house at the Quivira 2016 conference listening to Wes Jackson of the Land Institute.

The first week of November, Rachel and I took On Pasture to the Quivira Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico to meet people and expand On Pasture’s content to better serve our western readers. This great learning opportunity was best summed up by the last speaker, Lesli Allison of the Western Landowners Alliance. Having attended many Quivira Conferences she said that at each conference there was a moment when she was certain a fight would break out. After all, what can you expect when you have passionate people with sometimes with polar opposite opinions in a room discussing sensitive topics like public land steweardship or climate change? But those fights have never started and that’s the magic of Quivira and what it calls “The Radical Center.” Instead of battles or fist fights, Quivira has created opportunities for ranchers and environmentalists, country folk and city folk to come together, talk about what they need and want, and then find solutions that work for everyone.

Quivira (pronounced either kwu-vera or key-vera) was founded on June 11, 1997 by two conservationists and a rancher. As one of the founders, Courtney White, describes, Quivira is “dedicated to bringing ranchers, environmentalists, public land managers and other members of the public together and to demonstrating that ecologically healthy rangeland and economically robust ranches can be compatible.”

Coalition members believe that the future of the West depends on the ability of people to shake hands and get to work, so they started by bringing together reasonable people to talk about challenges and develop solutions. An early example was a workshop with the Forest Service, conservationists and ranchers discussing fire to restore grasslands. It was described like this in “Range Magazine:”

“During the workshop, a scientist told the audience what the ranchers already knew, that 50 percent of forest grasslands have disappeared over the last 50 years in northern New Mexico, mostly due to the proliferation of piñon pines and junipers. Fire, he said, was the key to restoring grass. His research detailed how low-intensity fires burned the forest every seven to 15 years historically. The future of ranching, he concluded, is tied to returning forests to ecological health.

“A conservationist told the audience that he was ready to lend a hand. His organization had purchased a grazing allotment on Rowe Mesa and was offering it as a grass bank for local ranchers. Cattle would be moved up on the Mesa for three years while home allotments underwent prescribed burning to knock back the invading piñon-juniper forest. The ranchers, in other words, will stay in business while the environment is being restored.

“A week later the ranchers of the Santa Barbara allotment agreed to try the grass bank.”

quivira-new-agrarian-programThis is just one example of the work Quivira has done to bring people together to facilitate problem solving. In addition to annual conferences with speakers presenting innovative solutions and management methods, they’ve helped implement these practices on the ground. Working with ranchers, they’ve provided the funding and volunteer manpower for restoration projects. Quivira workshops and publications provide access to information on practices that create resilient landscapes. Their New Agrarian program matches apprentices with mentor ranches, training the next generation in agricultural best practices.

In just two decades, the Quivira Coalition’s work has benefited 1 million acres of rangeland and 30 miles of riparian drainages. It has changed the way people work together and shown that we can solve seemingly intractable problems when we all sit down and talk, then shake hands and get to work. Quivira is an idea worth supporting into the future, so that’s what we’re asking you to consider. Every tax-deductible donation this week is being matched up to $50,000 by the Globetrotter Foundation and Paicines Ranch. Here’s the link.

Hey! It’s Giving Tuesday and what better way to give than to an organization that supports ranchers and their way of life?!



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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.

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