On the recommendation of several people, I spent three days at the 2013 Quivira Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Quivira Coalition was founded in 1997 with the mission "to build resilience by fostering ecological, economic and social health on western landscapes through education, innovation, collaboration and progressive public and private land stewardship."
The conference was an opportunity to hear experts talk about rangeland management, conservation practices and climate change, and hear ranchers from the U.S. and New Zealand talk about their observations in a deeply personal way. Some of the lectures, especially the ones by Jonathan Overpack, a climatologist, and Amy Haak from Trout Unlimited and were unsettling because they provided evidence that climate change is real and measurable. A simple thing like pollination may not happen because as temperatures rise, timing could be off between when plants bloom and migratory pollinators arrive. Grasslands will be more subject to plant loss and hotter fires. And warm water fish like bass will replace cold water species like trout as stream temperatures rise.
At the same time, there were some very positive notes as well. A rancher from New Zealand explained in detail a new approach to regenerating rangeland. A representative from the Forest Service talked about flexibility in land management. Eight hundred people who care about the future of agriculture and ranching shared experiences and networking opportunities. Though there are challenges, I came away encouraged by the passion the attendees had for making the best of the hand they've been dealt.
It was also a great opportunity for me to connect with organizations that are concerned with supporting ranchers and agriculture in general. I met people from Western Landowners Alliance, Young Farmers Coalition, New Mexico Land Conservancy, and of course, the leaders of Quivira Coalition. Plus a number of l wonderful ranchers who clearly are great stewards of both private and public land.
I certainly plan on attending the conference next year!