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Conservationists Become Ranchers

In June 2006, 49 heifers were delivered to The Quivira Coalition's ranch on the 36,000-acre Valle Grande allotment on the Santa Fe National Forest atop Rowe Mesa, southwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico. They were the first installment of what would become a 124-head herd of heifers, plus three Corriente bulls, all under our "Valle Grande" brand, and all under our management. And just like that, a bunch of conservationists became ranchers. This was an intriguing turn-of-events for the staff and Board of The Quivira Coalition, a nonprofit whose original mission was to create common ground between ranchers and environmentalists. It was also a surprising twist for me personally. If ten years ago you had told this former Sierra Club activist that I would be in the livestock business, selling local beef to Santa Fe residents, I simply would not have believed you. But here I am—a dues-paying member of the New Mexico Cattlegrowers' Association. Maybe it was not such a stretch. After ten years of encouraging ranchers to act more like conservationists, it suddenly seemed logical that we, as a conservation organization, begin to act more like ranchers. It was not just a matter of "walking the talk" either—the harder we looked, the more conservation opportunities we saw running the ranch as a ranch. In fact, when discussing this turn of events in my lectures around the region today, I state simply that The Quivira Coalition is "a conservation organization that manages livestock for land health and prosperity." Obviously, this is something new under the sun. But what exactly? ---------- Courtney White is co-founder and Executive Director of The Quivira Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building bridges between ranchers, conservationists, public land managers, scientists, and others. He is the author of Revolution on the Range: The Rise of a New Ranch in the American West.