Note: This blog is an excerpt from “A Natural Partnership: Holistic Management International and The Nature Conservancy: Grazing Lands Sustainably” that was published in IN PRACTICE #174.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Holistic Management International (HMI) have begun collaborating by using HMI’s curriculum — incorporating key elements of conservation planning from TNC — to improve ecological processes and land health on two pilot projects in Colorado at the Lowry Range and JE Canyon Ranch. Implementing Holistic Management on these two working ranches has been highly rewarding for both organizations, and promises to be a long-lasting and productive partnership.
In the spring of 2015, TNC encouraged the Colorado State Land Board (CSLB) to obtain consulting support for the grazing lease and operation on its 26,000-acre Lowry Range Ranch lease project near Denver, Colorado. In 2016, The Nature Conservancy also purchased the 48,000-acre JE Canyon Ranch near Trinidad, Colorado and began to establish a grazing operation on it. Because of their positive experiences with Holistic Management on other projects, TNC also wanted support for themselves and their new lessee in applying Holistic Management practices to support a successful grazing operation launch at JE Canyon.
With TNC’s new focus on their Sustainable Grazing Lands Program, led by Colorado TNC’s William Burnidge, they perceived Holistic Management as the type of successful adaptive management tool that would serve as a complement to TNC science-based conservation management approach. “For years, TNC has been best in class for conservation, but we recognized a need for also addressing financial and social aspects,” said Burnidge, “and HMI has created an excellent platform to enable communication of goals and the means to reach those goals.”
Likewise, HMI was eager to learn from TNC how to better articulate our curriculum, particularly in regards to biodiversity conservation goals and to help educate not only private landowners, but also public agency staff and other natural resource managers seeking to collaborate and apply the best available science to improve decision making on grazing lands. “Although much of HMI’s work has been directly with farmers and ranchers trying to improve their lives, their lands, and their livelihoods, we are grateful for the opportunity to work closely with The Nature Conservancy to better address the needs and concerns of conservationists and others involved in public land management,” said Kathy Harris.
Building on common values of education and wide-scale regenerative land management has forged close relationships and improved the effectiveness of all parties involved on these two properties, including the operators of the grazing enterprises. HMI’s focus on education that creates behavior change is a great pair to TNC’s research and science resources. “We are finding that the integrated curriculum is working and we have created a platform to enable communication of goals and a means to move toward those goals,” said Burnidge.
All parties have agreed that one of the key outcomes of these collaborations has been the ability to frankly put forth hard ecology/conservation questions and objectives, discuss them respectfully and critically with very different perspectives, and find ways to achieve them in concert with successful for-profit grazing enterprises. This has come from the growth in shared vision and the use of creativity that has emerged from the holistic goal and from understanding the decision testing process. Chris Pague, TNC Senior Conservation Ecologist, noted, “HMI has a way of caring for and nurturing people through the process, engaging us in conversation that needs to happen… listening and questioning.”
“The communication and planning platform that HMI provides is enabling diverse partners to integrate planning and management for improving conservation/ecological process, business, and quality of life outcomes on large working cattle ranches in the American West, and is dispelling notions that tradeoffs are unavoidable,” said Burnidge
Both the Lowry Range and JE Canyon Ranch are prime examples of triple bottom line regenerative land management that is creating thriving communities. “Whether you call it ‘continuous improvement,’ ‘adaptive management,’ or ‘holistic management’, this type of process is what we need for all grazing lands,” says Burnidge.
To read the full article, subscribe to HMI’s journal, IN PRACTICE, and request that your subscription starts with issue #174.
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