Conference Seeks to Create Open Dialogue and Exchange Among Different Factions Involved in Western Ranching

Ranchers, economists, ecologists, environmentalists, federal and state land agents need to understand their interdependence and the necessity of an open dialogue and a working partnership. That is the focus of a unique 3 day regional conference planned for May 4-6 at Colorado State University.

The "Culture, Economics and Ecology of Ranching West of the 100th Meridian" is a conference intended to bring together the many people who study, work in or have an impact on the business of ranching throughout the West. Key issues to be discussed include the future of ranching in the West, the ecology of private and public lands, competing uses for grazing rangelands, and the economics of public-land grazing.

"The West is the fastest growing region in this country. Growth is occurring on what were formerly farm and ranch lands, so developments are sprouting up around existing ranches and farms, jutting up against public lands and creating a whole new landscape," said Richard Knight, professor of wildlife conservation at Colorado State University and one of the conference organizers. "There are critical issues to be explored. What we hope to accomplish with this conference is a meeting of minds, a sharing of information and a mutual understanding. Ranchers, conservationists, economists, ecologists and agency representatives — we all have the same goal: to preserve the unique beauty and culture that can only be found here in the West."

With the increasing conversion of rural landscapes to commercial and residential development, more Americans have come into contact with the rich natural heritage that created the culture of the American West. The ranching lifestyle, which is an integral part of that culture, has changed since the days of the open range. In the redesigned New West, those associated with maintaining a working landscape and those involved in converting it to something else, must work together for the general good.

The list of conference participants reads like a "Who’s Who" of the West, those who have devoted lives and livelihoods to preserving all that is special about this area of the United States. The list includes:

  • Luther Propst, Executive Director, The Sonoran Institute. The Sonoran Insitute is a non-profit organization based in Tucson Arizona which works throughout the American West, Northwest, Mexico and southwest Canada to promote landowner- and community-based strategies for preserving the integrity of protected lands
  • William deBuys, The Conservation Fund, Valle Grande Grass Bank. DeBuys directs the Fund’s cooperative effort involving ranchers, conservationists and public agencies in the rehabilitation of public range lands in northern New Mexico. His book "River of Traps" was listed among the New York Times’ Notable Books of 1990 and was one of three finalists for the 1991 Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction.
  • Linda Hasselstrom, author, rancher, for nearly 30 years earned her living by working on the family cattle ranch in South Dakota and from freelance writing. Her nonfiction titles include "Windbreak," "Going Over East" and "Land Circle. Her most recent collection of poems is "Dakota Bones." Since 1992 she has spent winters in Cheyenne, WY, writing with a new perspective but still centered on the ranch she now owns.
  • Allan Savory, founding director of the Allan Savory Center for Holistic Management. Born in South Africa where he pursued an early career as a research biologist and game ranger in the British Colonial Service of what was then Northern Rhodesia (today Zambia), Savory made an important discovery in what was causing the degradation and desertification of the world’s grassland ecosystems. Savory worked with numerous managers, eventually on four continents to develop sustainable solutions to this problem. Exiled in 1979 as a result of his opposition to the ruling party, Savory settled in the United States where he co-founded the Center for Holistic Management with his wife, Jody Butterfield. Their most recent book , "Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision-Making" was published in 1999.
  • Bernard Rollin, Director of Bioethical Planning, Colorado State University. Rollin taught the first course ever offered on veterinary medical ethics and has been a pioneer in reforming animal use in surgery, teaching and laboratory exercises in veterinary colleges. He is a principal architect of recent federal legislation dealing with the welfare of experimental animals and has testified before Congress on animal experimentation.
  • Drummond Hadley, rancher, poet, environmentalist. Raised in affluent St. Louis society, Hadley cowboyed for relatives in Wyoming while still in his teens. At the University of Arizona, he majored in English, but after graduation left for the border and "entered the cowboy/ranching culture to see if there was knowledge associated with men and women living in huge open spaces that might be useful to humanity today." Hadley believes in, and utilizes, a grasslands plan of management-using controlled burning and reseeding and a grazing deferment "grass banking" project, to increase the health of the rangeland.
  • Paul F. Starrs, author, editor of The Geographical Review and associate professor of geography, University of Nevada. Author of "Let the Cowboy Ride-Cattle Ranching in the American West," Starrs has also written more than seventy scholarly articles, reviews and book chapters. Although he now spends his time writing about the evolving geography of the American West, he spent eight years as a horseback ranch hand and claims he can still throw a houlihan.
  • Bill McDonald, 5th generation rancher on the family’s Sycamore Ranch in southeastern Arizona. Past president of the Malpai Borderlands Group, a grassroots organization attempting an ecosystem approach to the management of a million acres of land under multiple ownerships on the Mexican border with Arizona and New Mexico.
  • Lynn Huntsinger, associate professor in Environmental Science, University of California-Berkley. Huntsinger teaches rangeland management, pastoralism and culture and resource management. For the past fifteen years she has been researching the transformation of ranching in California. Published extensively in the Journal of Range Management, Society and Natural Resources Ecology Law Quarterly and others, her most recent book chapter is "The New Western History: the Territory Ahead," edited by Forrest G. Robinson.
  • Richard L. Knight, author and professor of wildlife conservation, Colorado State University. His research deals with the ecological effects from the conversion of ranch land to rural housing developments. He sits on the board of governors for The Center of the American West, The Natural Resources Law Center and the Society for Conservation Biology. He has coedited: "A New Century for Natural Resources Management," "Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation;" "The Essential Aldo Leopold," "Stewardship Across Boundaries" and others.

Sponsors of the conference include: The American Farmland Trust, The Allan Savory Center for Holistic Management, Gallatin Writers, The Sonoran Institute, The Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Colorado State University Agricultural Experiment station, The Western Center for Integrated Resource Management, The Nature Conservancy and High Country News.

Registration fee for the conference is $60.00 for the public, $40.00 for students, through April 20th. After that date, a late fee of $15.00 will be added. Students attending the conference will be eligible to receive 2 academic credits applicable to any degree program in Natural Resources.

For more information, contact the Office of Conference Services at Colorado State University at (970) 491-6222. OR to request an information and registration packet by e-mail, address requests to: Registration fee payment cannot be accepted electronically.