Monday, July 30, 2012

New breed of ranchers shapes a sustainable West

Normally, listening to a cattleman talk with reverence about managing grass and water, using terms like "holistic" and "sustainable," would be akin to hearing an environmentalist marvel about the horsepower in an all-terrain vehicle. It seldom happens. But a new breed of cowboy, like Jones, is changing how ranching is being done in the American West and might – just might – alter the dynamic in the "range wars" that have engulfed the region for more than a half century. Make no mistake: These are not new arrivals carrying out green techniques for the feel-good sake of being green. They are ranchers managing the land in benevolent and environmentally sensitive ways because they think it will help them survive – and make money. "As a matter of necessity, the old way of ranching is giving way to a new paradigm," says Bill Bryan, head of the Rural Landscape Institute in Bozeman, Mont. "For some, ranching was pursued in the past with an emphasis on raising beef at the expense of everything else. Raising animals for the dinner table isn't an activity that has to be at odds with the environment." Nor is this some New Age boutique movement – a few quixotic ranchers trying to be good stewards of the land while overseeing a few hobby cattle. Some of the biggest land-owners in the West are embracing elements of the practices, such as media moguls Ted Turner and John Malone, who oversee a combined total of 4.3 million acres – the equivalent of a couple small New England states. The movement also includes people from diverse philosophical and business backgrounds, from Peggy Dulany, a member of the Rockefeller clan, to former Wall Street hedge fund managers to caretakers for the Mormon Church...more

Does this sound like your place?

Traditionally, cows are turned out to graze largely unattended on vast open expanses, where they eat the vegetation until it is virtually denuded. This, in turn, can lead to greater dependence on costly hay, as well as antibiotics and pesticides.

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