What is Your Land Ethic?
By Kelly Garbach | December 12, 2017
A cowbell calls us to order at the Quivira Coalition conference. The hallway that was full of ranchers, farmers, conservationists, scientists, and agency folks empties as everyone flows into the meeting room. This first day starts with a question: what is your land ethic? Each person that steps on stage answers and describes her or his land ethic.
The speaker series started with Allan Williams, of Grassfed Exchange, describing his work with grass fed beef industry on adaptive grazing, highlighting the key principles of diversity and disturbance. Then Harrison Topp described the history of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and how the proud work of the union has inspired his career as a first generation farmer. Larry Littlebird, Pueblo Elder/Hamaatsa, reminded the audience of the importance of slowing down and bringing back the sacred way we eat, grow, and share our food.
By the time that Wendell Gilgert took the stage, I was well into reflecting on my own land ethic: small can be beautiful; there is no task too small to merit my full attention; there is no question too small to merit follow-up; each conversation may be small on its own, but in aggregate they can add up to significant, positive change.
Wendell described our Rangeland Watershed Initiative and Rangeland Monitoring Network. He detailed how our partner biologist model, in collaboration with the NRCS, is engaging landowners across the state to think about how conservation planning and adaptive management can help increase forage production, soil water storage, carbon sequestration, and other critical functions. Taken together, the principles that Wendell presented prompted all of us to rethink how our working lands can function as water catchments that generate multiple benefits for both land owners and broader society as we re-water California, one ranch at a time.
When we break for lunch, everyone mingles together over food that has been donated by local operations for the event. The meal is the perfect prompt to think about the ‘radical center.’ The idea of the radical center, as described at Quivira, emphasizes working together across our diverse backgrounds to steward and improve the health of the land with shared authority and responsibility. The radical center is a call to action, working both within and across our home organizations and professions, using our land ethic and disciplinary training to realize the positive change that we aspire to realize.
These are reflections from the 2017 Quivira Coalition Conference, Ranching and Farming at the Radical Center, in Albuquerque, NM, Nov 15-17, by Kelly Garbach, Ph.D., Senior Ecologist with Point Blue’s Rangeland Watershed Initiative. The Quivira Coalition builds soil, biodiversity, and resilience on western working landscapes.The Quivira Conference is renowned for bringing together a broad community as diverse as the lands they manage.
Learn more about Kelly here and our conservation partnerships on working lands here.