AoR 104: SRM Keynote Address "Working Across Eras" with Courtney Taylor & Tim Murphy

Wise management and conservation of rangelands in the future will require knowledge from the hard-earned experience of those near retirement and the fresh and uninhibited ideas of young professionals. However, reaching across these generations of ideas and experiences can be challenging. This final plenary will be a thought-provoking discussion that highlights the value of combining well-lived experiences with youthful insight. Tim Murphey, retired rangeland and fire professional, will describe the concepts he has learned that will be valuable to plot a path into the future of rangeland management. Courtney Taylor, student and rancher, will highlight the insight that young professionals can bring to power innovation and engage the next generation of rangeland managers. Tracy Kupchenko will moderate this discussion based on her pivotal experiences in working with both youth and well-worn ranchers and rangeland managers.

Courtney Taylor grew up on a cattle ranching operation near Warner, Alberta, Canada. Always ambitious and a self- starter, she was running her own profitable on-farm businesses including a small sheep flock and orphan calf operation by age 10. Through her family operation, she was introduced to the art of rangeland management, and then while attending the Southern Alberta Youth Range Days camp, she further explored the science behind beneficial management practices, potential careers, and opportunities associated with rangelands. Her first exposure to the Society for Range Management was through the High School Youth Forum, then again at the University level, participating in the student conclave and competitions like the Undergraduate Range Management Exam and Extemporaneous Speaking event. She is currently attending the University of Saskatchewan and continues to run several of her business initiatives including a small bull operation specializing in genetics that will sustain the extensive winter grazing and spring/summer calving utilized on the ranch. Needless to say, that as far back as she can remember, she has grown and continues to foster a deep respect for her animals and the land on which her family cattle ranch depends.

Tim Murphy is recognized for his long and impactful career in rangeland and fire management. Tim completed a bachelor’s degree in rangeland management from the University of Wyoming and after graduation Tim began a 39-year career in rangeland and natural resources management. Tim’s career began as a range technician with the Bridger-Teton National Forest and shortly thereafter he joined the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at the Green River Resource Area managing public rangelands in southwest Wyoming, followed by supervising a range, wild horse, and soils team at BLM’s Caliente Resource Area, Nevada. Tim went on to management positions with BLM in New Mexico at the Carlsbad and then Las Cruces Resource Areas followed by a District Manager assignment at Miles City, Montana. Throughout his assignments Tim was active in wildland fire management as a firefighter and was called upon to inform national policy through the results of his leadership involving fatality and serious accident investigation teams. Tim went on to Boise, Idaho as the Director of Fire and Aviation at the National Interagency Fire Center followed by becoming the BLM Idaho State Director. After retiring from the BLM, he has remained active in promoting wise land management that supports local economies and healthy landscapes. Tim is currently chairman of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.



>> Welcome to the Art of Range, a podcast focused on rangelands and the people who manage them. I'm your host, Tip Hudson, range and livestock specialist with Washington State University Extension. The goal of this podcast is education and conservation through conversation. Find us online at This episode is a rebroadcast of a plenary session from the Society for Range Management's Annual Meeting in Boise, Idaho in February 2023. The theme of the meeting was Rangelands Without Borders. And the theme of this particular plenary session was Working Across Eras. The speakers were from different eras. Courtney Taylor, a college student at University of Saskatchewan who is a rancher. And the other, Tim Murphy, a retired Bureau of Land Management state director from Idaho. The moderator for this session, Tracy Kupchenko, gives a good introduction to each speaker. So, in the interest of time, I'm just going to put the full session description in the show notes and not read it here. I have not heard many young people with the speaking ability of Courtney. And she and Tim model respect across eras. I'm confident you will enjoy this pair of speakers individually as well as their interaction after each has spoken. Here's the recorded session.

>> Nice to hear we're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed today. Welcome to the third and final plenary of the 2023 SRM Conference. I am Tracy Kupchenko and I'm going to be moderating this session this morning. We have some pretty exciting -- I'm excited about it. We have some really great guests that are going to be talking to us about across the generations, that's today's theme, with our overarching theme of Rangelands Without Borders. So, to start off, I'm going to ask my speakers to join us on the stage and we're going to sit in our little sitting room here. And then we're going to have a really beautiful poem read by Hailey Wilmer. So first, I'll just ask our guests to come on up. And then we'll have Hailey come and do the kickoff for us. Enjoy.

>> Good morning, everybody. This poem comes from my experiences growing up in Montana, but also from the dissertation data that I had with repeated interviews with ranchers in Colorado and Wyoming on their experiences in ranching. And it's dedicated to Steve and Gigi O'Hare. It's called On Ranching. The wind, the cattle prices 24 months with no rain. The coyotes in the calving pasture, snakes in the grass. A cardboard box full of mom's shoes in the back of the pickup with the rest of the load to the dump. The heavy April killing storm open cows in the sale ring. Fire in the haystack in the foothills. Thunder and dad's voice. A cold branch kitchen lonesome. The black coffee or straight whiskey cannot warm. These things will make you hard. The trick is learning to get soft.

>> Ooh, I got me a little teary eyed. Thank you, Hailey. That was beautiful. This is the third plenary and Karen Launchbaugh and I have been working hard on these to change things up a little bit. And so, this is why we welcome you, all of our closest friends, to our little kitchen table slash sitting room for a little conversation about across generations, across eras. So, I'd like to welcome our two wonderful guests that have agreed to be part of our sitting room and share their knowledge and wisdom and experiences with us. We have on my far left Mr. Tim Murphy. Tim is -- here, I'll just talk about what he's given me the lowdown. You might have seen in your programs the whole -- Tim's done a lot over his years and we're very excited that he's up here with us to tell his story. Tim has university -- he went to the University of Wyoming and has a BSC in Range Management. He was a firefighter and a range tech with the Bridger-Teton National Forest, almost four decades with the BLM. Four decades, that's impressive. Thanks for taking the time. I just got to say that again. I'm so excited. Four decades with the BLM working across several western states as a range conservationist, manager, director of Fire and Aviation at the National Interagency Fire Center right here in Boise. He's been the BLM Idaho State Director. And currently, his latest gig we can say has been to be the chairman of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. So, Tim has agreed to be our seasoned experienced wise owl that is going to share his knowledge with us and his perspectives of the last -- of his experience in his lifetime in range management. And then on the flip side, we have our guest, Courtney Taylor, to my left. Courtney is a young rancher from Alberta. Her family and her ranch in the foothills near the foothills of Alberta, near Warner. She is currently in school. She is first and foremost a cow person. If you want to get Courtney fired up, start asking her about her cattle herd and her exciting ventures. She's had her own business on the farm since she was 10, one or two things going on at the same time. I've met Courtney through the Youth Range Days. And you may have seen her up on the stage here at SRM in the past with the High School Youth Forum in Minnesota. So, she would be our younger, green, handy person that is going to give us the other end of the perspective. So, what I'm going to do is ask them a few questions about one question and they're going to just tell us a little story about themselves. So, you can see -- I think what we'll do today is have ask Courtney -- we flipped a coin to make it fair. And Courtney has agreed to go first and she's going to tell us a little bit about herself, where she comes from. And the first question I'd like to ask both of you is -- for Courtney. Moving forward in your career as you move forward in whichever direction you choose to take. We have and we will build through our careers a metaphorical toolbox, if you will, of the -- of what's going to help you in your career as a range practitioner, as a rancher, as a producer, as young lady from another country, as a young person moving forward into this exciting, the future I guess, exciting future. Tell us a little bit about yourself and about the tools that you've already acquired and some that you think will help you as you move forward into your -- as you venture on into your -- into the future. Please.

>> So, to start, I guess it's a little bit of a disclaimer because Tim has been working twice as long as I've been alive. So, I don't want to come up here and tell you guys that X, Y, Z is a surefire way to success, that in five easy steps and a small investment into my company, you can become a billionaire. I can't speak to the future stocks, motivational speaking or where science will be going in 50 years. That's not my area. That's not my expertise or the purpose of the session. This session, as I understand it at least, is to invite conversation to tell meaningful stories in a way that applies across generations. And so with that said, I do have three tools that I picked out during my short career that have really made an impact. And so, that starts out with respect, a proactive mindset and good people in your corner to help achieve your goals. So, to understand my perspective, Tracy mentioned that I'm a cow person. I'm going to tell you a bit of a story, my story. So, to kind of understand what drives me, what motivates me, you first have to understand where I'm from. This is my ranch. This is home. This is where I grew up. And this is pretty, pretty well everything that my talk will focus on today. So, I'd like to invite you to our ranch and introduce you to my family, kind of invite you and all of a few hundred of your closest friends to have a conversation around our kitchen table. So, these pictures up here, this is my home. This is what I love more than anything else in the world. And as rangeland professionals, I'm willing to bet that you have a place like this. So, what's that one place that makes you happier than anything else just by knowing that it exists and that you get to interact with it? And I'd like you to keep that place, that special place to you in your mind as we go through this plenary because I think that a lot of us are motivated by a real passion and a real love for that place. So, in these pictures, it's our cows, my good dog and our yard nestled in the north face of the Milk River Ridge near Warner, Alberta. Which for those of you who aren't familiar with the tiny little village, it's just north of the US border, pretty well straight north of Great Falls. In a normal year, we get about 14 inches of precipitation and set in an elevation of 1,021 meters, which for the one or two Americans that might be sitting in the audience is about 3,350 feet. So now that you know where I'm from and the table that -- where we're sitting around is situated, we're going to pretend here for a second, one might had to go grab some extra chairs. I would like you to introduce you to my family. So, if I would change, this is my family. This is the people who instilled a deep love for cattle and range and taught me everything that I know. My first memory is of a cow which is on par, given the multiple generations of people who love cows and love their Border Collies more dearly than just about anything else. Our cattle are our family. And we want them to have the best possible lives. And the way to ensure that is by managing our grasslands. And if we continue to do this in a way that is sustainable, I can carry on the legacy of the stewards who maintained or improved the rangeland before I was ever born. So, now that you know where I'm from and some of the things that have shaped my perspective, I'll let you in on the first tool to bring forward to the future, a whole lot of respect. So, we'll just address this early on. Canadian winters can be pretty brutal. Mother Nature teaches you respect faster than anything else does in our area. Sometimes all you can do is hunker down, hang on and hope that it flows over. And it eventually will. It does. But you have so much appreciation for that sun when it comes out. A deep respect for our cattle, our land, the past and the people who currently are around me has been essential for my own personal growth and the betterment of my ranch. I understand that I don't know everything. In fact, with the people in this room and the caliber professionals that are in this room, I probably know less than most. But I know my ranch and the 850 cows on it that walk on it like the back of my hand. I know how my cattle think, how they act and how my grassland looks when it's healthy or when it needs some better management. And I do my best to listen to the stories they can't tell. They don't speak a verbal language and yet I understand it. And I think you do too. As range professionals, we've all heard stories from the land, every single one of us. If we didn't, we wouldn't be here. Because for something, something about the grassland, something about the way that the range lands are. They speak to us. And for me, it's through my beloved cattle. So, I kind of like to liken this listening to respect. Because if you respect everything, you respect the rangeland cattle, people, plants and even that winter storm that took a week to blow over. You understand something. You learn a lesson from it. And you should always be learning. There's limitless possibilities. And I really do believe that this mindset has helped me succeed. And I hope a similar mindset will help you guys as well. So, that takes us to the second tool, being humbled by a winter storm, the next thing you need is a little bit of courage to move forward. To get out of that hunker down, hang on and hope mindset. Always looking forward into the future with a proactive mindset. So, after a tough winter storm, how do you move on? How do you get out of that reactive mindset and get into a proactive one? It's hard. It's real hard, especially when you're focused on just the bare necessities for yourself, your family and your cattle. But without moving forwards, you're moving backwards in this world that we live in. But this doesn't mean that we can't appreciate where we come from. And that's why I started with respect and with family because everything that we do on our family farm is a reflection, although we try and make it a slightly improved one from the people who come before us. And that's showcased in these pictures here. So on the top right for you guys and, yeah, right -- left for me is my brother. He learned how to pose like that for my dad who happens to be on the bottom. And our -- like managing your grasslands with improved watering systems. And this picture on your left-hand side is a before and after from a piece of land that we bought. And by changing that dugout and changing how that worked, we completely altered how that pasture could be grazed and completely altered for the better. There's no doubt about that. But water accessibility is an issue that I think most of us have encountered. But our biggest challenge was moving towards winter grazing when the opportunity presented itself. This change fit very well with our late calving program and our Angus cow herd because they're a little rangy. But without thinking ahead, we wouldn't have had the opportunities to expand and there wouldn't be room for my brother and I to come back to the farm. And this expansion has come completely and totally with genetics, particularly genetics from this cow. So, the cow on the left here, that's my very first cow that I ever owned. And the calves on the right are her great, great-grandsons. So, I heard genetics were the foundation for improved winter hardiness while maintaining maternal characteristics. And I would even dare say improving them. Using genetics that work for operation is a task that I take very seriously as the bulls that I choose will fundamentally alter or hurt, hopefully for the better. But I'm not arrogant enough to assume that I will never make a mistake in my bull program. And that's why I have tool number three, good people in my corner. So, just to recap, I'm moving forward with a whole lot of respect. I'm asking questions of everything. I want to know where it's coming from, how it works. And I'm not afraid to ask those tough questions. A proactive mindset so I'm always thinking 5, 10 years in the future as to what something's going to look like. And I'm taking this attitude and this drive forwards, all interactions. And then, it's particularly in my interactions with people. Having good people in your corner can change your life. My parents who I consider very wise people always say that there are three people that a ranch can't run without a good banker, a good accountant and a good lawyer. And they're not wrong. But I would extend that to a couple of range professionals and a good seed stock producer, too. Not everyone can know everything. And although ranchers are jack of all trades, we know we still are lacking some basic knowledge sometimes. Having good people in your corner that you can trust are essential to bounce questions off, especially questions that may seem silly, because silly questions are often so basic for your very understanding. And going back to the basics for clarification is something that's easier to do among friends. So, if you could have told 12-year-old me that going to range camp would change my life, that I'd be able to travel the world or the United States at least, meet people that will become mentors and some of my best friends, I wouldn't have believed you. I've been so fortunate to be presented opportunities that I never could have even dreamed of like presenting at High School Youth Forum in Sparks and then again in Minnesota. Traveling to Denver and successfully competing in extemp speaking, as well as fun things like a fishing trip with a great friend from Nebraska to professional opportunities like being up on a stage. And the people that I've met through range and other opportunities that would help me through it and what helped me grow as a person. Growing up on a ranch, I had a really good idea of what to look for from a rancher's perspective. But to learn from biologists, lease managers and conservationists, I learned to look for disparate indicators. And the actual terms for the plants and processes that we relied upon for cattle. Going to camp exposed me to a variety of people including camp organizers who were salt to the earth people and really wanted to help see every single camper succeed. Every child was given an opportunity to learn no matter their background. And I really do believe that range and agriculture in general has a place for everyone. And everyone's opinions and perspectives have a place. And how often can you walk into a room and know that every single person in there wants you to succeed? That was my first exposure to rangeland as a science and it's held true to Range Days, High School Youth Forum, student college life and now just sitting up here. Sitting next to Tim, I am so far outclassed out of my league and out of my comfort zone that it's not even funny. But I know that I'll get through it. I have people in my corner to help me, cheer me on, and people who spent so much time teaching me that they'd be disappointed if I messed up. No pressure, right? So, that kind of all loops it back to those three tools, a whole lot of respect, proactive mind, blowing your corner. I respect the people who've taught me so much too much to let them down. So, to ensure that my decisions are sound as I can be, given my lack of experience, I like to think that I practice my mindset thinking up to a decade in advance like I have with my herd genetics. And I know that the people who have helped me become the person today are cheering me on even after I asked that silly, silly question. So, as I wrap up my prepared part here, it's not extemp, I figured you saw that from my very prepared slides, I just wanted to take a moment and take advantage of the unique position that everyone in this room is in right now. While you're at SRM, don't be afraid to go on your comfort zone. Be proactive. Find some new people to be in your corner. Seek out new perspectives. And utilize what you learned to make a difference going forward. I'd love to have a conversation with you and hear your story, the story of your rangeland and the story of your herd if you have one. After all, I've taken you home, introduced you to my ranch and my family. Mom's probably made you coffee or tea, sat you down at our kitchen table. Only after moving The Western Producer, a couple bull catalogs off the table which in our house is quite serious business. And taking a little bit of time in introducing yourself would really be the respectful thing to do in a conversation now and maybe even meet a new person having your corner.

>> Thanks, Courtney. OK. So, I got tools that you listed. I got respect, be proactive and ask questions and have the people in your corner. Good people in your corner. We've got a whole lot of people here. I haven't counted all of you but there's a few head here. So, I'm going to flip that question now. And I'm going to flip it around and ask Tim. I'm imagining a welding truck with, you know, the back toolbox where you've got the whole -- back the truck, that size toolbox. And I know Tim has got some -- I'd like to ask you, Tim, if you could take three of three, two, three, whatever you want tools that you think would be helpful for folks like myself and all of us and Courtney. Moving forward, what would you like to you pass on, if you will, if you could? Please.

>> Thank you, Tracy. And Courtney, thank you. You've taught me a lot and all of us here. You're awesome really. I'll flip that I'm outclassed. You did a great job. Thank you. Good morning, everyone. I'm so pleased to be here with you all. Some folks local and a bunch of you have traveled a far piece to be here. You've got family and businesses at home and school and classes piling up. And this is an opportunity to stay up with your profession. And I think the commitment is just awesome. And that the room's just about chock-full right on the last day. Thank you. I think the first slide said something about Tim and he's going to provide some wisdom. And that's far from the truth. I think John Roos [assumed spelling] is in the room and he's saying, "Well, then why did they ask Tim Murphy to talk?" But what I would like to do is share if I had a way back machine or I could go in reverse what would I have picked up earlier in my career, wished I had and probably made some more progress earlier. When Karen showed me that theme early on, I thought right on because, you know, in today's world and where we're going, everyone's vying for their fair share of a fixed pie on the landscape. And we're going to need to work across borders. And the jurisdictions that all join each other depend on one another as well. And those who know me, well, know that I like to say that across rangelands, the word neighbor's a verb whether it's Canada, US, Mexico, Argentina, Spain or Ukraine. The word neighbor's a verb and that's how we work and that's how we get in long-term success. So, maybe a little bit of reflection. Like I said, if I could have a way back machine and learn things earlier than I did, here's what I'd say. We're traveling the west and I'll keep it to the Great Basin which I know well. And we're here, right? In the Great Basin. The landscapes look vast and they are. We know they're a quilt work of jurisdictions, private, state, county, federal, tribal, NGO. And as I just said, each one of them over the long term depends on the function of neighboring and associated jurisdictions in the local area. These are working lands. This is what I'm saying. And no one can operate long term just on one jurisdiction. It takes everyone that quote "working together." And as I said, everyone's looking for their fair share of a fixed pie. And look what's happened. Folks used to travel across rangelands to get somewhere. It seems like this big off-ramp just got built, at least in this part of the world. And wherever they were going 20 years ago, they're going to the rangelands right now for everything. So, it's gotten very, very challenging. So, I just wanted to tee up that way. So when I was a freshly minted range conservationist out of the University of Wyoming, my focus back then, those first months and maybe even a year or so, was on public pastures, BLM pastures. And I seemed to be practice-driven. What I'd learned in school was there are practices that our professors taught us. I guess I saw rangelands with borders, right? And it really, it really held me back from managing through integrated, collaborative efforts across this great working landscape. So, that's something that I wouldn't call wisdom. I just fell short on that. But fortunately, I picked myself up and learned a couple things. One I call the three-legged stool. And that's simply that I came from school and I had the science under my belt. But what I was leaving out was social science and economics. And when I learned that when I bundle those together in a frontend thinking about some grazing management practices or anything else, working with recreationists and I asked myself, "Well, we seemed to have the biologic soils. We seemed to have environmental sciences down." I needed to get out in the community and started to doing more and finding what are the expected social outcomes in this area and expected economic outcomes. And just because it's Great Basin doesn't mean it's the same in every community. There's some unique customs and cultures and perspectives. And you need to get to know that. Another thing was policy. When I was very young range con, I'd look at policy, in this case, I worked for the federal government, as a really narrow lane that there wasn't much room for interpretation, you know. Here it is, the letters and they're on the paper. Well, I built in desired social and economic outcomes, that lane didn't provide much opportunity to pay respect to those things in the community that were desired. Well, I learned, just step back, read those words, think about it. Almost all policy gives you room for interpretation. So, I say to the students and young professionals, do that, step back. Think about the other two legs on that stool, the social and the economics in addition to this. And how can you interpret that policy in a broader sense so you can bundle them all together and have a heck of a lot more stable, durable, long-term success? So, that's another one, policy, think about that. We're often slaves of policy it seems like. And that -- I'm not saying I broke policy, I tried hard to stay within it. I wrote for the brand. But when I learned that you could interpret it in a broader sense, I think I and partners, operators were more successful. So if you grew up in an area, Courtney, she knows all three of those by heart. And she's one of the people that I would go to, to learn about it if I went up to Medicine Hat country. So if you're new to the area you're working in, what's a quick way to come up to speed sooner than later? Seek out opinion leaders. And talk to colleagues. You'll find these people. Maybe the lady owns a grocery store in town. Maybe a county clerk, maybe a rancher, maybe a warden or conservation officer who's lived her whole life in the area. And ask them for some conversations that will open some doors and let them know who you are, where you're coming from, that you really need their wisdom and input on all three of those legs. That you're bringing some good science to the table but you'd look to them to help you understand expectations from the community that had been met and expectations that haven't and why and maybe promises made or perceived promises that haven't been delivered. And maybe you can make good on that or maybe you can't, but you need to know about that. That's the context that you're going to be working in, in that community. So seek out opinion leaders. And then my last piece for this question that I didn't learn early on enough and that's the power of consensus-based management. Not new to anyone in this room, I just want to underscore stuff that I picked up late and wished I'd really hammered on earlier. Consensus-based management, when you're faced with a landscape scale challenge or issue, build a great big old long table. Or better yet, I probably should have said build a great big old round table and seek people with diverse interests around it. It's human nature to get folks that are like-minded, you know. But when you work with those opinion leaders, you're going to find out where those diverse interests are and maybe ones that are even contrary to your own perspectives, you need them. Because if you don't get them to the table early, you're going to hear that later and it's not only not fun but it's just not as successful. So build up big old long roundtable, people with diverse interest to get to know one another to frame maybe a common vision of what the issue or challenges are, what they agree on and what they don't agree on and why. And it's kind of like that policy piece I just talked about where I looked at it really narrowly. It's human nature to come to that collaborative table with your vision. By gosh, you know, here's the values I hold dear and how I'd like them to be addressed. Once you spend a couple of months with folks that have divergent views, even contrary views, I think that lens starts to open up a little bit. And the magic of collaborative groups is they often, more often than not, land on an area that they can all compromise on and move forward that meets their interests and also meets the social and economic interests. It's pretty awesome. Now, it takes, those who have done it and I know many in this room who have personally, it takes a huge investment in time. And I'll say no little patience takes huge investment time. So, do you want to put that investment in on the front end and reap the dividends through implementation that isn't quite as bumpy as it could be? Or hit the time when you need to make adjustments and there's not as much criticism because we all talked about that on the frontend? Or just have a one dimensional agency approach? And then find yourself in a taffy pull, either locally in the community or litigation. And that takes a lot of time, too, you know. And it's not as progressive time. So, that's my way back machine thinking about what should I have done more of early? Thank you. Tracy.

>> I won't call you Marty McFly but I get what you're saying. Thanks, Tim. Oh, wow. OK. So I've been making some notes. And I'd like to touch on something that you said, a little bit more that both of you said in a different way was working with people. And just what you were just talking about having that round table. And at the beginning here, we talked about a kitchen table. So, I don't know, tables with common theme. But our common theme that we all have here is rangelands. And we all have different angles that we live on, work at, we do that we're learning that we are sharing. But going back to something that you said, maybe it was -- once upon a time, I remember you saying something, Tim, durable, durable decisions. And Courtney, you talked about having three important or having important people in your corner that can help you. So I was wondering if we started -- if you wouldn't mind, Courtney, if I asked Tim first, can you expand a little bit more on your -- on that table idea and what you found was helpful to get the big P, policy, down to the ground level to last? And then I'm going to flip it to Courtney from the ground level up. If you guys can just expand it. So maybe think, Courtney, from your perspective, what if someone comes to your ranch saying, "We have this new policy that we're going to have to implement on your grazing lands, on your leased lands," what would make something -- what would you want to have the opportunity to do to be a part of that or not? And Tim, have you seen that happen where you have an example maybe that was successful, if that triggers it. We're just supposed to be having conversation so we might have our mics on at the same time and I might have to be referee. But let's get talking.

>> Well, thank you, Tracy. And for the word durable, there's very little that I did to make anything durable. I'm going to go back to that roundtable and a commitment to a collaborative effort. And for my -- I'm speaking from a former agency folk, but I'll say that requires is giving up some ownership and control. You can't have a collaborative group and stand there and tell them how to operate. You got to just step back and trust that human dimensions and you've got enough diversity in that room, that reason then will prevail. I have a lot of trust in that and in people. So the durability comes from that collaborative effort reaching a -- and a direction that they can all live with at least or maybe even embrace in many cases. And as an agency fellow, you know, I was in Caliente, Nevada for what? Five years. And then six in Las Cruces and six in Miles City. So, I would leave in the community was left with whatever the direction was left with. And so the durability comes from that collaborative effort and community buy-in. And that's why I emphasize the desired social and desired economic outcomes. And I'm no social scientist or economics. But that seemed to where the taffy pulls came from, when things were top down. So the durability comes from the -- I guess from is the fruit of the collaborative effort. And whether I stayed or not, that community -- when I say community, those involved with the issue that were at that roundtable would heard that along. And when adjustments were needed, they were the ones who had the greatest context and perspective and help make -- and when a new range conservationist came, talked about opinion leaders, they already got some built-in opinion leaders that know a whole lot more about the issue than you would that first year. So, thank you.

>> Yeah, thanks. In an ideal world, we would take questions from the crowd and we wouldn't have this clock in front of us and we could have a great conversation. But I'm going to drive this -- unfortunately, we can't do that. So I'll ask a question to Courtney. At your table, you talked about your mom making more coffee and moving those important documents like The Western Producer, newspaper aside. Talk to us what I heard you say about the people in your corner, about the importance of that. As a learning young person, any pointers you might want to just share with us or share with your fellow young professionals I guess you could say that might be helpful. If you had someone come to your ranch saying, "You're going to have to do this now," what do you need?

>> Well, I think first of all, just in case you've never worked with ranchers, we're stubborn bunch. So, coming to someone's kitchen table and telling them, "We're going to do this now," probably isn't a good way to start. I would say that the very first thing you'd have to do is find common ground. I think that lots of times, ranchers and managers and rangeland professionals, we get thrown on opposite sides of the coin. But we're all trying to do the same thing, just in different ways. Because here's the thing is if the land's happy, the cattle are happy, everybody wins. If the system's working, we're all winning. And I think that that's something that everybody wants. Everybody wants the range to be happy. Everyone wants the cattle to be happy, the wildlife to come back and be healthy and thriving. But we go about it in such different ways that it seems sometimes like you're thrown against each other and you're not your allies. And I think that's the first thing you have to start with when you walk into someone's house and sit at their kitchen table. And like just kind of going off of that is you can build a base and a very strong base based on your shared interests and your shared needs and desires to protect what we love. And we all love it. And you're going to be stronger as a group. You're going to be stronger as a base. Because when I think durability, what I was thinking of was like a pyramid versus a pillar. You have so much more structure, so much more to lean on, so much more durability when everybody is sitting at that base in agreements. If you're given the top down, that reminds me a bit of a toothpick, it's pretty easy to pluck over a toothpick. It's a little harder to do it when there's base. And I think that that base is our shared love of the land. And if you can get that across, you can have a good conversation at someone's kitchen table. You can have a meaningful conversation and go about it in a way where everyone's happy and everyone wins.

>> Cool. Thank you. Awesome. OK. A little switching gears a little bit more because that was deep. That was awesome, you guys. Thank you for that. Tim, tell us a little bit about this picture that we're all seeing on the screen here. And speaking of lines and strategy and planning, any of you that have ever worked on wildfire, there's a command system, there's a way to go about it that might be better than others. But you were telling us yesterday this picture has a little story. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

>> Yes. When Tracy reached out to Courtney and I and asked if we had some slides to help tell our stories, Courtney put together as you saw some wonderful slides that told the story of where she's coming from and where she hopes to go with that beautiful land and her family. I'm not so good at that. And so I sent a bunch of slides to Tracy but I didn't check their granularity I guess. They didn't come across so we picked a few last night. And I'm going to jump ahead. I'm going to going to touch on this with SRM's Targeted Grazing Certification Program because coming to the meeting, I looked at all the committees and what's being accomplished and some of the new committees like the Nascent Leadership Committee that John Roos is working on and others. The Targeted Grazing Certification Program that SRM has is so awesome. This relates to this, I'll get there, relates to this. Using livestock to achieve desired vegetative outcomes is a natural. No, I think that's probably unanimous in this room. Yet even the most basic use of livestock sometimes gets challenged. And so I'm glad to see the certification program because that brings to the table not only professional preparedness but a certification by a body that's responsible for doing that and is respected by the agencies, by industry and others. And that's the Society for Range Management. And so, this is a pitch too. This was in the Soda Fire. I forget the acres, 360,000 acres. You could see the sky from Boise, all red. Those are becoming normal in the Great Basin. And we're losing beautiful sagebrush steppe bunchgrass. And we're losing this working landscape. Losing is not the right thing to say, people adapt. But we're losing the diversity and the ability to graze during various seasons for that. And so, targeted grazing, please, committee and all of you that are involved, keep looking at how you can use utilize livestock to mitigate and reduce the threat -- the three threats to the Great Basin, both to operators, wildlife recreationists, outfitter guides who depend on country like this to bring in people to hunt mule deer. And those three primary threats in the Great Basin are firing invasives, firing invasives. And there's one more, firing invasives. And all other things pale in comparison to the damage that we're seeing from that. And where we can bring in livestock -- whether it's bundling together several bands of old use and running down a county road or using cattle to move slowly through some really rocky country, you can't bring a mower in obviously or maybe it's too close to water for herbicides. That's a huge answer. Go to your font fuels management specialists. Go to your fire ops professionals and ask them. If you need control lines, if there is an ignition tomorrow, where would you like to see them? And those people will show you where they need livestock to provide some fuel breaks so they can compartmentalize the ultimate ignition that's going to happen sooner or later. And when it does, they have a place to anchor and flank their operations on, thus firefighters are going to be safer and they're going to deliver to all of us containment with the lowest possible acre. I'm sorry to grind on, on that but that is the primary threat in the Great Basin and good on SRM for certifying expertise in that area. That is -- that's huge. So, that's the story of those photos.

>> And that's an awesome segue. Thank you. SRM, what does it mean to you? What is it -- how has it helped you? What would you like to see more of? Well, this'll be hypothetical because I don't want to put Courtney on the spot. She's only been around a few years. But as a young professional from another country, Courtney, was there any words that you'd like to share?

>> My main focus here would be opportunity. And I would say that I've been a very fortunate individual, I'll be very, very honest there. I've had a lot of opportunities. That's a lot thanks to my parents. They're big planners and big future thinkers. And a lot of it through range. But taking advantage of those opportunities is also a big part of it. And SRM not only enables but encourages people and young professionals to take advantage of those opportunities. And I would say that through student activities and student committees and stuff like that, not only do SRM provide opportunities but they provide a reason for institutions and clubs and everything else to get students here and expose them to this by having a -- bridging the gap mixer and introducing everybody to different aspects so different areas of interests and really have a chat. Just over the conversation or over-the-table conversation that's honest. And maybe there's just a small groupie rather than someone sitting up here in a chair lecturing you. It's a big deal. And there's not a whole lot of people that can say that they get the opportunities to have a conversation with different agencies and different people from different areas of the country or different countries. And that's something that I think SRM really, really excels at. And it's really important for a young range professional. So, opportunities.

>> Before I give the answer, what day is today?

>> Today's Canadian Ag Day.

>> Yes. OK. I just -- OK. So we're talking about skating to where the pucks going to be, right? So, that's a Canadian analogy. OK. Make no mistake about it. SRM is so very different from so many professional societies. For decades and decades and decades, the Society for Range Management has focused and prioritized students and young professionals. Holy smokes, some 1,400, 1,500 people now registered at this event and a good third are students and young professionals. That commitment's been there a long time and that really positions the profession to stay up on things and have some vision. And carry on way past, you know, the time that I'm not even going to be able to stand up on this stage, for God's sakes. Mary and I just -- oh, and I want to say the benefits. Think about the new -- the student, young professional at this gathering, at this meeting shoulder to shoulder with folks who have decades of experience and the benefits of understanding their perspective after all that time. And then conversely -- oh, and the ability to tap into a mentor that may last a whole career and in many cases a lifetime. Take advantage of that. And I know many of you are. The other converse is students and young professionals coming into the profession to trade with eyes wide open and great example, questions upon questions, and most important above the questions are challenges challenging the status quo. Why aren't we here yet? Why can't we get there? Don't have the baggage of the politics and all that so good on SRM for prioritizing students and young professionals. Mary and I just completed building a home about 100 miles north in Valley County outside of McAllen. Early on, we went into subcontractors and contractors and tried to find their certification. It wasn't as easy as you'd think. Where in SRM, you'd get certified by a professional body, by a society. And Society for Range Management provides the certification and the standards for instruction for colleges, for universities, for consultants and so forth. And to maintain certification, you got to keep up. And all of you being here, the commitment I referenced early on to come here is one way of keeping up. Rangeland ecology and the rangelands publication is another. That's huge. Brings to the table all through the year contemporary research results and stories from professionals that you can relate to and ask, "Hmm, maybe I can adopt that practice." And I'll give you this. Back at your state section, your regional group, hone your leadership skills by stepping up and becoming part of the leadership team, by taking on some of the challenges of putting on the next meeting, state section or national. When I look at resumes and I see people belonging to professional societies, that's a checkmark, that's important. But what I was looking for is the folks that went beyond putting the check in the envelope every year to maintain their membership. And they were actively involved. They were paying forward in that profession, improving that profession and enriching their own abilities. SRM does that, too. I mentioned targeted grazing. Two others I picked out of the so many that I think are contemporary and very important. And that's SRM's Diversity and Inclusion Program. And the committee there, the commitment is obvious. That committee reports directly to and gives recommendations to the Board of Directors. That's huge. There is no gap in between. It's a pipeline right in. To ensure increasingly that all members have access to all the benefits of SRM and activities. And the second to last one was -- is SRM's Nascent Leadership Academy. Some of you may have stopped it at the booth. When I was a young range con, my boss came to me after a few weeks and said, "We're sending you to a four-month boot camp." It was awesome. Had my university education but I didn't know how to do the BLM version of grazing administration and grazing transfers. We did some of that. But we did a whole lot of work heading out to operational ranchers which was down in Arizona. And working with the operators. Day-to-day chores, whether it was gathering some cows or fixing pipe irrigation, you name it, pulling cattle guards, cleaning them. And just all those hours at the kitchen table that I got to benefit from. And sure, the irrigation practices and so forth were different than where it was going back to in Wyoming. But the human dimension was the same and I came back far more prepared to talk with people and accept their challenges and understand that social dimension and the economics. So, the Leadership Academy is seeking your input on how should they go forward. And many of the ideas are to replicate that boot camp, so to speak. BLM isn't doing that anymore. So, if not BLM or the Forest Service or NRCS, then who? And it's SRM. And they're looking at that so that students can get out on operations on the ground and see the application of what they've learned in the classroom on the ground and how that applies and where the challenges are. Great work, SRM. And finally, rangelands were a place that I said people drove through to get to where they were going for years. Yeah, come across Idaho, go into Yosemite, wherever. Well, now, rangelands are the destination. And as I said, everyone's seeking their fair share of a fixed pie. Pie never got bigger and there's a heck of a lot more folks on the rangelands these days. And the challenges are immense. And the people in this room, particularly the students and young professionals, I have great confidence that you will be meeting these challenges and showing us the direction to go. And if I might have a piece here, you may have other pieces but could I conclude with a quote? There's a quote from Charnley, Sheridan and Nabhan's book Conserving Working Landscapes. I think the subtitle is Stitching the West Back Together. "Ecology and economic health will begin their integration, stitching back together a west where we are defined more by the ground we share than the interests that have divided us." And if this theme doesn't resonate with that direction, I don't know what does.

>> So, for those of you who don't know, Canadian Ag Day is a day in which agricultural producers are supposed to share our stories, our stories about agriculture and what we do and how we produce food. And it just so happened that today happened to be the day and it kind of worked out and that's kind of cool because I think the last pre-COVID, Canadian Ag Day, I just so happened to be in Ottawa giving a speech similar to this. But I think that it's really important that we continue to share stories and that we have those roundtable conversations and discussions with people from various diverse backgrounds. Because rangeland is, doesn't seem like when everybody's staring at me, but a very small profession. It's a huge, huge overarching concept but there's just so few of us in comparison to the rest of the world. How many bankers, accountants and lawyers do you know versus how many range professionals? And maybe this isn't the room to ask that in, but on the whole. So, these stories that we have and the things that we know and share, I think it's really important that we are able to communicate that in a way that's meaningful and in a way that crosses even eras. So, like coming out, even if you're not a Canadian, I'm kind of going to set for the challenge to you is to say I'd like you to share your story with somebody. And I would love it if you'd come up and have a chat with me because I'd love to learn a little bit about everything and I feel like this would be a very diverse crowd to learn a little bit of everything from. But I challenge you to take a little bit of your story and share it. And especially if you can share it with someone who maybe isn't as familiar with this industry and the land that we love so much. So, even if you're not Canadian, please participate in Canadian Ag Day. Thank you.

>> Oh, you guys make my job [inaudible]. Well, how do I follow up to that? You know, last three days, we've heard so many different stories. Thank you, Courtney. That was a great segue. We didn't even plan that, by the way. But Tim and Courtney, you guys have shared some really, really important and pertinent points that I think all of us can take home and chew on and share. And don't forget, we got a whole year till this next conference. So, we're all hoping in our planning committee here, we hope that you would take this one little tidbit of information home with you, hopefully more, but at least one that you can take forward and you can utilize that work in life when you're out walking around home, wherever that is for you. The first day Across Borders and Tip nailed it when he said he saw people's faces relax when you saw and heard the bird song. I mean, when you heard that bird song. We're only a couple months away and we'll start hearing them again. I can't wait. The hearing, the seeing, the sharing, the talking, the stories. Keep going on your range story and you share your range story. Share it in music. Share it in art, stories, videos, TikTok, blogs, whatever floats your boat really. You have so many options. But please enjoy the rest of this conference. Enjoy each other's company. Reconnect. I've heard amazing stories already in the last three days. And there's so many of us here but like it's already been said, there's so many others out there that have no clue that still call rangelands badlands, wastelands, what have you, all these other words. But we know more, we know better and it's up to us each to take that five minutes to talk to some stranger out in the city or somewhere and share your love for this land and for this profession. And until then, we've got a whole year to build that momentum up for the next conference. So with that, I'd like to thank our guests for their insights and their stories and their photos. And they will be in the area around the rest of the -- well, in the morning, for sure. Please come and talk to us. We'd love to answer questions if we can. Thank you to our virtual attendees for joining us from wherever in the world you are and we hope to hear from you again next year. Thank you.

>> This was a recorded plenary session from the Society for Range Management Meeting in Boise, Idaho in February 2023. To learn more about the Society for Range Management, go to Thank you for listening to the Art of Range podcast. You can subscribe to and review the show through iTunes or your favorite podcasting app so you never miss an episode. Just search for Art of Range. If you have questions or comments for us to address in a future episode, send an email to show at For articles and links to resources mentioned in the podcast, please see the show notes at Listener feedback is important to the success of our mission, empowering rangeland managers. Please take a moment to fill out a brief survey at This podcast is produced by CAHNRS Communications in the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. The project is supported by the University of Arizona and funded by the Western Center for Risk Management Education through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

>> The views, thoughts and opinions express by guests of this podcast are their own and does not imply Washington State University's endorsement.


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