Sunday, December 13, 2009

Parallel Universe, Part Three: When Two Worlds Collide - Ranchers ARE Environmentalists

Parallel Universe, Part Three: When Two Worlds Collide - Ranchers ARE Environmentalists

December 11, 2009

By Julie Kay Smithson, property rights researcher, London, Ohio and

Some wise person once said that, before you can know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you’ve been. Historic ranches garner awards, their roots soaking up the fertility of the soil, the lifeblood of judicious water use and the bounty to be had from an eagerness to try new things. From crops to livestock, new ways to grow both may mean trying entirely new concepts. Ranching in the New West means embracing experience while leaving the door open for new techniques. Ranchers put their all into their ranches, and it shows. The line of distinction -- between optimum habitat for people, livestock and wildlife, and poorly managed, or non-managed, federally controlled land – shows who the real stewards of the land and water are: ranchers.

The Purdy Ranch – Picabo, Idaho

Beavers and the Downcut Riparian: Copper Creek, on the 10,000-acre Purdy Ranch has been in the same family since the mid-nineteenth century. About that time, beavers were trapped out for their pelts. By the 1970s, 150 years later, the creek sported the regular symptoms of watershed disease -- soil compaction, sagebrush invasion, intense storm water downcutting. Rancher and conservationist Bud Purdy began a combined, deferred grazing plan (keeping cows out of the riparian during critical times) with seeding and brush control. At first, he tried constructing dams to reduce channel erosion, but 70 percent of them would not hold against flood peaks. Lew Fence (Wood River Conservation and Development Council) and Dale Roberts (Soil Conservation Service) suggested beavers, because beaver dams hold water better than human equivalents, and a colony of beavers build and re-build dams for free (or, at least, for inner bark). The successful results: The water table rose, 33 beaver dams were built in five years, the pool area exceeded 6 acres with correspondingly more wildlife, riparian area, longer flow seasons and some small trout. Noteworthy is the combination of deferred grazing, beavers and the "Beaver Committee," a unique interagency group that transplants "problem" beavers (beavers that chew up semi-rural apple orchards), relocating them to livestock-raising watersheds. The new co-evolution of ranchers and conservationists usually requires new, less formal public/private institutions like the Beaver Committee. – Source: "Co-Evolution of Ranching & Conservation Communities" (excerpt) by Peter Warshall, Originally published in Whole Earth magazine, Issue 90: Summer 1997, Page 70.,+Idaho%22&cd=5&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&lr=lang_en
On August 20, 2002, Bud Purdy was honored for his efforts to improve grazing land management on privately owned grazing lands by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS State Conservationist Richard Sims recognized Purdy for his contributions as a member of the National Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative Steering Committee. The USDA Honor Award, which Sims presented to Purdy, is the most prestigious honor bestowed by the Secretary of Agriculture. "The honor award is a tribute to Bud for his commitment to meeting conservation needs of private grazing lands," said Sims. "As a member of the national steering committee, he has volunteered hundreds of hours of his personal time to increase public awareness of the values of the nation’s private grazing lands. His ability to work effectively with all levels of public and private organizations has been critical to the success of the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative. We also value his expertise as a member of the Idaho Grazing Lands Steering Committee." Purdy represents the Society for Range Management on both the national and state Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative steering committees. Source:

Maddux Cattle Company, Chase County, Nebraska

On October 17, 2009, southwestern Nebraska rancher Jack Maddux, of the Maddux Cattle Company in Chase County, received the 32nd annual Golden Spur Award, naming him the nation's top rancher. '"More than bringing prestige to an individual, the award spotlights the humanistic and scientific contributions of the livestock and ranching industries," says Robert D. Josserand, chairman of the National Cattlemen's Foundation, which nominated Maddux for the award.' Source: Nebraska Farmer, October 26, 2009. The ranch, homesteaded in 1886, is very productive, successfully running red Angus 123 years later.

"Great ranches are not made of the dirt, water, wind and grass that comprise their environment. They are formed and sustained by the character of the people attached to them." – Charles P. Schroeder, executive director of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The XXX Ranch, Tarrant County, Texas

“I want to assure you that among the cattlemen, there is a great deal of pride and a little competitive spirit to see who can be the best wildlife manager. ... I just wish, very much, that the working environmentalists -- and I guarantee you there is no more dedicated environmentalist than the farmer or rancher who lives on that land, makes his living from it, works with it all year long, year after year, and wants to leave it better than he found it -- were more recognized by the nominal environmentalists, who would rather talk about it than do it. ... Some have blamed greed of early ranchers for degradation of rangelands, when almost invariably it was lack of knowledge that led to decline. The science and art of rangeland management has been developed only in the past 50 years. With this knowledge -- provided by SCS (Soil Conservation Service) technicians through locally governed Soil and Water Conservation Districts, using information developed by federal and state experiment stations and the ranchers and technicians themselves -- dedicated ranchers voluntarily made tremendous strides in brush suppression, grazing management, and restoration of rangelands during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Progress has been slowed in the past 20 years by reduced technical assistance available for grazing lands and by the increase of production costs over prices received that has reduced capital available for needed improvements. During recent years, brush encroachment, especially by juniper, has taken over abandoned cropland fields and continued to invade rangelands. ... it is astonishing that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says that endangered species recovery plans are exempt from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. It is hard to believe that anyone would consider a recovery plan not to be a major federal action, and I hope that policy statement will be carefully investigated by congressional staff for legitimacy.” – Source: Excerpted (pages 84, 85, & 218, from a statement by John L. Merrill, Burnett Ranches; Professor, Texas Christian University; Member of the National Steering Committee for the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI). "Full text of 'Department of Agriculture's activities related to the yellow-cheeked warbler: hearing before the Subcommittee on Department Operations and Nutrition of the Committee on Agriculture, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, September 16, 1994, Cleburne, Texas.'" It should be noted that John L. "Chip" Merrill had, at that time, directed the ranch management program at TCU for the past 33 years, since 1961, as well as being a past president of the International Society for Range Management, a long-time member of the Wildlife Society, professional member of the Society of American Foresters, and a director of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Though the Internet mentions many accolades he’s received, he prefers to continue learning rather than rest on his considerable laurels, still at the helm of the XXX Ranch in Tarrant County, Texas.

The Adams Ranch, Meade County, Kansas, and Beaver County, Oklahoma

"Biological Control Demonstration Project: Adams Ranch, Meade County, Kansas. The landowners are demonstrating biological control of tamarisk using goats. Approximately 100 head of goats were confined for feeding in a 10-acre plot infested with tamarisk. The project offered much information on appropriate stocking rates, predation, viability, and feeding habits of the goats." – 10-Year Strategic Plan for the Comprehensive Control of Tamarisk and Other Non-Native Phreatophytes. The project continued for a second year, but the goats didn't consume the tamarisk to the point of its demise, and the trial was halted. Source: (Page 19 of 39 pages; 2.98 MB)

"We've been raising cattle on this land since 1890. We have to be good stewards or we'd go out of business. It's not our livelihood; it's our life! We spend thousands of dollars getting rid of noxious weeds and we have more of the desirable grasses." – Rancher Judy Adams.

The Three Circle (000) Livestock LLC – Carbon and Albany Counties, Wyoming

“The 2nd Annual NACD/NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) Olin Sims Conservation Leadership Award was presented to Wyoming rancher Ralph Brokaw on February 3rd, 2009, during the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) annual meeting in New Orleans. Brokaw was chosen for his outstanding leadership and service in conserving natural resources. … The Brokaw family ranch, the Three Circle (000) Livestock LLC, located near Arlington, Wyoming, is a testament to his passion for healthy lands. His commitment to natural resource conservation management makes him a leader and example in his community and throughout Wyoming. Bobbie Frank, Executive Director of WACD (Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts), said, “I am sure I speak for all of our Conservation Districts in congratulating Ralph on receiving the Olin Sims Leadership Award. It is a very deserving award for the work Ralph has done for natural resource conservation efforts in Wyoming, the region and at the national level. This award will hold significant meaning to Ralph I am sure, given that it is in memory and honor of his best friend and longtime mentor, Olin Sims.” Established in tribute to the late NACD President, Olin Sims, the award recognizes outstanding conservation leadership at the state and local level. The award is presented annually to an individual, based upon superior service to the conservation community in promoting conservation on private lands. Sims, a rancher from McFadden, Wyoming, lived a life distinguished by years of volunteer service to conservation. “Olin was a true conservationist who was equally committed to practicing conservation and advocating for it,” said NACD President, John Redding. “This award epitomizes the conservation leadership and integrity that was his life and highlights the leadership of other conservationists who assume the mantle of conservation leadership into the future.” Source: Ralph also received the 2002 Landowner of the Year from the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission for his outstanding commitment to wildlife habitat, including rotational grazing, riparian areas, managed hunting, etc.

Baker Ranches, Inc. – Nevada and Utah

Dean Baker, eastern Nevada rancher and longtime Nevada Cattlemen's Association member -- as well as being on the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, a Second Vice President, and on various other boards & committees -- was named Nevada’s Outstanding Rancher of the Year in 2003, as well Cattleman of the Year the previous year. Baker Ranches, Inc., run by Dean, his wife, Barbara, and sons Craig, David and Tom, plus veteran buckaroo Lee Whitrock, straddle the Nevada-Utah border. Of its 12,000 acres, 2,000 are in barley, alfalfa and corn, and the ranch also runs about 2,000 head of cattle, and sells high-quality alfalfa hay to California dairies and Las Vegas area horse owners. " ... Nominees for Outstanding Rancher of the Year are evaluated on their conservation planning and resource management objectives, as well as any innovative or unique management practices." Sources: (Page 1 of 7 pages; 80.06 KB) "The U.S. Bureau of Land Management agencies in both Nevada and Utah have honored Dean for his management of grazing allotments on the public domain." – Baker Ranch: A Success Story, March 28, 2005. The Nevada Agricultural Foundation

Multi-generational ranch families have always hit the ground running, their dedication helping to feed the world. Ranchers already walk the walk, as evidenced by countless hours of physical and mental work. To talk the talk and explain what they already know so well, is difficult for an independent, self-reliant people, but learning to do so will build a communication bridge that will keep them and their world alive and well for another two hundred years.

“And to protect and care for all His creations, God made ranchers.” – Beverly Merritt, Merritt Ranch, Lincoln County, New Mexico.

1,997 words.


Article citation: "First published in the December 2009 issue of Progressive Rancher Magazine."

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