Plants and animals and weather patterns do not respect property boundaries, state lines, or national borders. Managing landscapes requires not the obliteration of human-defined boundaries but working across them. In this plenary session from the Society for Range Management's 2023 annual meeting, Tammy VerCautere and David and Holly Ollila describe their efforts to conserve wildlife species, especially grassland birds, in the Great Plains of the U.S., through the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. Tate Lantz, a NRCS supervisor in South Dakota, moderates the discussion.
AoR 107: SRM Keynote Address, "Working Across Borders" with Tammy VerCauteren & the Ollila Family
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>> 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 artofrange.com.
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This episode is the last in the Society for Range Management plenary sessions. For a variety of reasons, I'm running this episode, which was the first plenary at the 2023 conference, last in this podcast series. This session was about working across borders, whether property borders or national borders, but specifically, geographic boundaries. The plenary description says, "Many rangeland resources and ecological forces pay no attention to the ownership and political borders that humans put on maps. Effective land managers must work across borders to address rangeland realities, including wildfire, weed invasion, wildlife, rivers and streams, and climate. Those who care for rangelands need to find partners and reach across borders to accomplish their goals. Tammy VerCautere will describe the continental-scale efforts known as the Central Grasslands Roadmap. This effort is aimed at stitching together a future to sustained rangelands and migratory birds. David Ollila and his family will talk about how they manage their South Dakota ranch with the knowledge that they are a piece of a larger puzzle known as the Great Plains. Tate Lantz, a land management professional, will moderate this discussion to highlight the inherent value of working landscapes to maintain a healthy and productive continent." There are a few places where a translator's voice comes in over the main speaker. These plenary sessions were being translated live into several languages during the actual presentation, and what we are re-broadcasting here is the recording captured during the live webinar. These must have been places where the audio feed was switched accidentally to one of the translators during that live recording. Here's the plenary.
>> We're going to get started and I want to thank all of you for coming. Welcome to the 2023 Society for Range Management Annual Meeting. I am your honored president. I am Karen Launchbaugh. And I must say I think I've held a lot of offices and committees, etc., in this society, and this is a huge, huge honor just to represent this group of people who work with folks on the ground and preserve this fabulous land that we call rangelands. It means a lot to me. So, I'm here to welcome you and I'm sorry that our Governor Brad Little is not here. Mr. Little is a rancher. He knows his range. He supports range. He's been a member of the Society for Range Management. His sons have taken my class, which is kind of a daunting thought. But so he does understand and he several times reached out to me saying he was really sorry he couldn't be here. He may come in at some point. So, I love it that we are a range state. Idaho is more than half range. And all the pictures -- I have a bunch of pictures that I went through and all of them look just like this. Big, wide, open landscapes with mountains in the background. If you search for Idaho rangelands, that's what you see. It's a beautiful, beautiful state. It kind of reminds me of that old cowboy's -- an anonymous quote about rangeland is where there's more rivers and less water, more cows and less butter, and you can go further and see less than anywhere else in the world. That is not seeing less. So, I think that cowboy from Texas never made it to Idaho. That's all I can say. It's a wonderful state. We're so happy to have you here. And our theme this year is Rangelands without Borders. And you're going to see that over and over again. Today we're going to talk about how do you manage and conserve animals across borders. You have to pretend they're not there. You have to find ways to work across borders. And then tomorrow we're going to talk about working across disciplines because we are synthetic science, you can't learn one thing and know everything about science, you have to know socially, you have to know biological, ecological, etc. We know a lot. So, working across disciplines is something that we need to do. And then the other thing that's really exciting is when you look out across here, there are some folks that have been around for a while, who know how to get their hands dirty, and then we've got the young across generations too. So, those are our themes for the plenary. And I'd like to introduce Brian Thrift. Brian is half of the planning team that -- the chairs that got this meeting going. So, tell us where did we come up with the theme Rangelands without Borders?
>> Thank you, Karen. Good morning, everyone. As Karen said, I'm Brian Thrift. I am one of the planning co-chairs for this year's annual meeting. The other co-chair is Dr. Barry Irving, who many of you know, from Alberta. This year's meeting is co-hosted by the Idaho Section and the International Mountain Section which includes Alberta and generally Western Montana. So, the theme Rangelands without Borders originally was inspired just by the collaboration that came together to host this meeting in the first place. But as we started exploring that more, we started thinking through some of the aspects that Dr. Launchbaugh just spoke to. How rangelands transcend ownership boundaries, management boundaries, geopolitical boundaries, right, that it doesn't change at the fence line. And we also started thinking through how range over time they may shift, but they're still rangelands, right, they still provide the same values, purposes, resources. And then those values also how those change through different generations, as she spoke to. So, anyway, the more we thought about, the more what was more of a little bit superficial inspiration really took on more meaning for our planning committee. On behalf of the planning committee, it is my pleasure to welcome all of you to Boise. We've been working on this meeting for four years, right? We were supposed to host in 2021. It is an honor to finally have you all here in person and everyone joining virtually as well. We have a great meeting planned. Could not have done without the planning committee. If we could please give a quick round of applause to the planning committee? Thank you. We have a number of volunteers. All the sessions, all the sessions are being streamed virtually so if you're not able to make it through a specific session, know that you will be able to listen to those presentations later on. If you see someone wearing an incriminating gray vest with the meeting logo on it, stop and thank them, they've put in several years of hard work. And again, thank you for being here. We're really happy to host you. Thank you.
>> Okay. I've got some new stats. There are -- we are pushing 1500 people at this meeting. So, good job, planning team. It would make it the largest meeting that we've had so I think we were all ready to have a live meeting again, right? Another interesting part of that is because we went through COVID and we learned how to do things online. We have over 300 people from across the globe that are also joining us live at this meeting. Remember that if you -- if the room is full and you can't get a seat that this is all going to be recorded and you can go back and look at it later. So, that's one advantage of this hybrid model. Okay. When we came up with this -- okay. For those of you standing in the back, there's a total much -- there's always room in the front or over there so there we go. Don't make me bring in a sheep hook here. Okay. So, we started to think about rangelands without borders because we were international. We were Canada and the US. But then in the interim, this great thing happened. There was a group of people that were working for years and years to declare a global year of rangelands. And so, in 2026, we'll have the Global Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists. So, that is so cool. And to tell you more about that, we have folks that are on the International Affairs Committee and the International Year Committee, and Jim O'Rourke is going to tell us a little bit about how we got here and what we're going to do to celebrate this.
>> Thank you, Karen. Fifteen years ago, in 2008, at the International Rangeland Congress in Hohhot in Mongolia and China, a lady that worked for FAO came up with a thought -- FAO is Food and Agricultural Organization at the United Nations. Caterina Batello suggested that we ought to approach the United Nations about an international year of rangelands. So, Caterina took that back to Rome. Worked on it a little bit. But it was the wrong process. We didn't quite know the process to go through. So, that fizzled. In 2011, at the International Rangeland Congress in Rosario, Argentina, then we passed another resolution, the same thing, to declare an international year of rangelands. That went without action. And so, at the SRM meeting, Society for Range Management meeting in Corpus Christi in 2015, Barbara Hutchinson, the University of Arizona, called a joint meeting of the Outreach Committee and the International Affairs Committee and said, "It's time we started doing something here." So, between that meeting in Corpus Christi and the 2016 International Rangeland Congress in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, we formed what we called the International Steering Committee at that time. About 200 people. And key to those efforts were two people, Ann Waters-Bayer from Germany who had worked -- actually a Canadian but living in Germany, who had worked with pastoralist organizations around the world. And Maryam Niamir-Fuller who had worked with the UN system, with the United Nation's Environmental Program. And I can tell you without those three ladies, without Barbara Hutchinson, without Ann Waters-Bayer, without Maryam Niamir-Fuller, this thing would not be happening. So, the Canyons then presented a resolution directly to the United Nations. It turns out that again was the wrong process. So it took us a long time figuring out the process. Then Mongolians submitted a resolution to what's called COAG, the Committee on Agriculture of FAO. That committee approved that resolution. They passed it on to FAO. FAO passed that resolution, centered on to the UN General Assembly in New York. And in March of last year 2022, the UN declared 2026 as the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists. So, from cows to butterflies, from the Arctic to the tropics, from country folks to city slickers, we're all in this together and it's our job, every one of you sitting here and everyone joining us virtually, and everybody that is involved with rangelands to make sure that the general public of the world understands the importance that 50% of the land surface of this globe is rangelands. So, I'm going to turn this over to Lauren Svejcar.
>> Thanks, Jim. Our rangelands around the world are faced with many challenges and they are very global in nature. And with pastoral communities which includes ranchers who echo the same concern and that is that their voices are not being heard. And the goal of the IYRP is to elevate the voices of pastoral communities around the world and address the challenges faced by rangelands through the unification of efforts and sharing of information. IYRP Coalition has been set up to ensure that local-level issues and voices are taken to the global level and that global-level actions and efforts are conveyed and verified back at the local level. The ISG, the International Support Group has hundreds of active members, and this includes governments, government organizations, and non-government organizations such as Cattlemen Associations, Nature Conservancy, Quivira Coalition, lots of active members. And then we have the Global Coordinating Group who is chaired by Dr. Igshaan Samuels in South Africa and Dr. Maryam Niamir-Fuller in the US. And the goal is to work to ensure that communication and efforts from the local to global levels are fluid. So, there are a lot of groups involved, there's a lot going on. And so, we want to make sure that all these efforts are conveyed in a way that everyone is being included and incorporated. The Global Coordinating Group helps to integrate efforts with the Global Communications Team who played a critical role in garnering support for the IYRP, leading up to the IYRP designation, March 15th, 2022. And then also with Key Working Groups who are working on targeting key issues at the global level such as issues of conversion of rangelands to monoculture tree plantings, known as afforestation. And then there are 11 regional support groups. Now, the regional support groups were created based on geographic, ecologic, and cultural factors. And these regions each incorporate multiple countries. So, for example, the North American region is comprised of the US, Canada, and Mexico. Efforts within these regional groups are really focused on addressing issues and elevating voices at the local level to the state, national, and regional levels. And so, we want to make absolutely sure that issues being raised are relevant, and a primary concern of people at the local levels and that people at the local levels are being engaged so that their voices and stories are being told and are accurate. So, I want to ensure that my local stakeholders in Eastern Oregon are being heard and connecting with other groups in Central Africa and Southeast Asia so that singularly we have no voice, but together we will have a voice, and hopefully address some of the major issues that are facing our rangeland systems all over the world. And with that, we'll have Lane Toppy talk about some of those efforts.
>> Thanks so much, Lauren and Jim. I'm going to just take a few minutes to talk about action-oriented efforts that we're stimulating here at SRM. So, for example, we're going to be having a workshop this afternoon that's based in large measure on input from SRM Sections. And what we are going to tackle is to try to clarify what stakeholders across North America feel about the main challenges that are posed to rangelands going forward this century. What are the most important interventions, actions we can take to have a positive impact on these trends, right? How could the IYRP help SRM Sections? And how could stakeholders help the IYRP? So, we sent out a survey to stakeholders in the US and Mexico, and Canada, and it is remarkable how similar the big concerns are. So, just to highlight a few. The loss and fragmentation of rangelands. The loss of traditional users as they are aging, right, and other constraints that make ranching or farming unsustainable. Low public awareness, a basket of climate change issues, expanding multiple use, increasing diversity of stakeholders, and the need for more stakeholders to come to the table. And primarily for North America, this includes producers and it includes Native Americans, okay, in both Canada and the United States. So, what are some interventions that are needed? Better policymaking came out on top. More effective outreach education. More tools for adaptive management to deal with climate change. Updated federal regulations, and strengthening of stakeholder networks. So, across these three huge nations, these were the issues that percolated up to the top. So, how can you get involved? There's going to be a lot of ways. First of all, we'll have I think a pretty active workshop today, those of you who have a few minutes might want to join us between 1 and 4 p.m. in the afternoon. We're going to be working on developing a strong stakeholder network that you're welcome to join. We also have opportunities if you're into communication and education and outreach, we have communication teams that are always looking for people to contribute. Okay. So, there's plenty of links and information. There's the IYRP website that's been developed now for several years, tremendous resources there. And also Jim O'Rourke, his trade show booth, you're welcome to stop up and sign up there. So, that's all I have. Thanks very much for your attention.
>> The chair of our Awards Committee is here, Ricardo Mata-Gonzalez.
>> Okay. I think I am where I wanted to be. Good morning. Good morning, great rangeland people. It's a great day to be here in beautiful Boise, Idaho. I am Ricardo Mata-Gonzalez from Oregon State University and it has been my pleasure this year to be the chair of the Awards Committee. This morning, we want to recognize this year's top three honor awards. Frederic G. Renner, WR Chaplain Stewardship, and WR Chaplain Research awards. The Frederic G. Renner Award is the most prestigious award bestowed by the society for range management. The primary criterium for the selection of a recipient for this award is sustain outstanding accomplishments in or continuing contributions to any aspect of range science and range management by an active and contributing member of the society. The 2022 Frederic G. Renner awardee is Dr. Clenton Owensby. Unfortunately, Dr. Owensby cannot be with us this week but we'll be -- we'll have the pleasure of hearing from him live on Zoom at the award ceremony on Wednesday. Regardless, let's give him a quick round of applause. The WR Chaplain Land Stewardship Award gives special recognition to members of the society for exceptional accomplishment and contributions in their application of the art and science of range management to specific rangeland entities such as wildlife and domestic livestock use on such lands. One award can be given annually. We would like to congratulate Jenny Pluhar who is this year's recipient of the Chaplain Land Stewardship Award. Jenny, if you could please stand to be recognized? And last but certainly not least, the WR Chaplain Research Award gives special recognition to members of the society for exceptional and sustained research accomplishment in range science and associated disciplines. This year's award goes to Dr. Sam Fuhlendorf. Dr. Fuhlendorf, if you could also stand to be recognized. We will hear more from these three great awardees at the award ceremony on Wednesday from 3 to 6, in Ballroom 400. We strongly encourage everyone to attend -- to honor the accomplishment of our colleagues. I hope to see you all there. Thank you.
>> We do hope that you will join us on Wednesday afternoon. There's many awards that we give to the deserving folks in our society. And so, you always have the opportunity to nominate people that you think are deserving and even serve on the awards committee. It's humiliating when you read those of what everyone's done, you think, jeez, I haven't just done like this much and they're that, you know. But it's okay to be humbled once in a while because we have some really great people around us. Again, I'm going to encourage you all to grab some seats if you can because now we're going into a really exciting part of the presentation. I'm going to ask Tate Lantz to come up because Tate introduced the officer team at SRM to something that's really happening across our continent that -- we're the international society for range management and we can work across at least this continent. And there is something that's happening that SRM is a part of, a movement to really conserve migratory critters, birds, and that there's a piece for people on the ground and a piece for people that are really working across those continents. And Tate Lantz who is with NRCS in South Dakota, so a long-term SRM member, serves on the Endowment Committee. And I believe you've also been awarded several times too. So, we're going to let you talk about these folks and get us thinking about rangelands across borders.
>> Good morning. As Karen mentioned, my name is Tate Lantz. Everybody seems pretty happy and go-lucky, there must be a lot of Kansas City fans in here. I know I'm definitely not a Kansas City fan but I'm not an Eglestonian either. So, anyway, welcome. Welcome to the plenary. We are here to discuss for the next 50 or so minutes how we really need to get over this border thing. We need to overlook and to save what's important to all of us and we all know that the most important resource for us is rangelands. So, just it's my honor and privilege to introduce the next speakers that will get us started for the week. Both are amazing ambassadors for the grasslands in the central part of our country, and I'm proud to call them friends. Excuse me. They each have bios in the program so I'm not going to read those. But I'll give you a little insight on just some personal notes from both parties. Tammy VerCautere, she's been a great inspiration to me the last three years. She is the Executive Director for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. And that's a full-time job. But Tammy finds more hours in a day than anybody else I know. She has been the guiding light for the Grassland Roadmap which is a huge endeavor. Since the inception of the group, Tammy has led it to be instrumental in putting together a policy that has been important to our rangelands. We had a virtual summit in 2020 due to COVID, and we all know that problem. And then we had another summit in 2022 in Forth Collins which was a huge success, amazing participation, lots of great energy, and a lot of great stuff came out of that summit. Before the Roadmap, I've got to admit, I wasn't as Karen mentioned, I worked for NRCS, I was a range management specialist for a lot of years but I kind of went to the dark side and became an assistant state conservationist. So, my job ended up being a lot more office work and paperwork. You know, but when I went in and started to working with them on the Grassland Roadmap, it really helped me get back to my roots and, you know, become more enthusiasm -- become more enthusiastic about, you know, working with rangelands again. And I have to credit her for that. And the other group on the stage is Dave Ollila and family. Dave had been in my career since 1998 when I started, that's the year I graduated from SDSU. Dave worked as an ag teacher in Newell, South Dakota. It is amazing. His teams that he brought to range competitions, if you guys are aware, they were successful, they did amazing things. They went, they won. And even if he didn't win, you know, when they went to the Oklahoma City trips, if his teams weren't the teams that were winning, he was still along with them, he was teaching. He was doing, you know, showing the importance of these things, and you're going to see that when we have this discussion with his children and his community. Now that Dave has moved on from the ag teacher and extension roles, he's a ranger but it doesn't mean his teaching days are over. He welcomes his guests to a ranch where he teaches the importance of rangeland and soil health every chance he gets and it's important work with the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition. That's another way that he as a lifelong educator he continues to provide everyone lessons if they'll come and learn. So, that's my introduction for the speakers right now. I'm going to let them take the floor. And, Tammy?
>> Well, thank you, Tate. I really appreciated your leadership in the Central Grasslands Roadmap. And I want to thank the Society for Range Management for the opportunity to be here. We're at a tipping point. What we do in the next 10 years will define our central grasslands landscape for generations to come. And it's not just our grasslands that are at risk, it's our wildlife, it's our people, it's our health, it's our climate, it's our future. I want to take you on a little journey I did a couple of years ago with my daughters across Colorado to Michigan to surprise my dad for his 80th birthday. And as we got into the car and as we drove, and we looked out of the window, we could see nice intact grasslands. But as we went further east, those grasslands started to become more fragmented, more degraded to the point that we hit Iowa that we weren't really seeing grass anymore, we were seeing rows and rows of agriculture. It really hit me hard to see this landscape change and to see how it's changed just over a couple of decades I've been driving home. To think about the grasslands that we're losing, the butterflies, the wildflowers, the people that are dependent on these communities. Are we going to be the tallgrass prairie where there's only 1% remaining? I'm confident together we can make sure that's not where we're headed. But the reality is with the loss of those grasslands, our birds are in steep decline. There is a report in the Journal of Science in 2019 and we've lost 3 billion birds. I want to say that again 3 billion birds. And one in four of those birds are grassland birds. That means there's 720 million less birds out there than there were 50 years ago. In Colorado, we have the lesser prairie chicken, we have the chestnut-collared longspur, the thick-billed longspurs. I'm not sure in 30 years if they will still be here. I wanted you to see these places, I wanted you to hear the sounds of our prairies and our grasslands. You're hearing meadowlarks, lark buntings, and grasshopper sparrows. And I want to think about 20 years from now, as I take my grandchildren east, will those songs and sounds still be there? Will their vistas still be there? Will the chorus be there for our grandkids? Now, I'd like you to step in the feathers of the lark bunting. Put on your tuxedo, you're a sharp-looking male, black and white like you're wearing a tuxedo, you're about six inches in size, nice conical bill, you'll eat seeds, you'll eat insects. And you're on your withering grounds right now in Mexico. But you're getting ready to head north. And as you head north, as you fly over Texas and New Mexico, you don't see borders, you don't see fence lines, you don't see public land, private land, Indigenous land, you see grasslands or you see habitat that you can't settle in, that you can't stop in to fuel up as you continue north. And as you get further north to your breeding grounds, whether it's Colorado or Montana, is there a food cover, shelter, water for you to raise your brood? The reality is there's less and less places for the lark bunting to stop. There's less and less places for it to bring the next generation forward. So, like the lark bunting, we need to take a bird's eye view, we need to think beyond our borders. It's important, not only for the lark bunting, it's important for every species out there, including us. We need to think about weaving a tapestry together of our grasslands through our management, through our opportunities and access, and through sharing information. As we've heard about earlier, the challenges facing our grasslands are great, our climate is changing, our drought cycles are increasing, there's a disconnect to our grasslands, our urban communities don't understand why they matter but they do matter. And we need to be innovative, we need to try new things, we need to be able to take risk, we need to make sure we're supporting the grass-based economy, we're thinking outside the box, we're thinking outside the borders, we're trying new technology, and we're innovating. In the bird conservation world, we've focused on really trying to raise awareness for birds, multiple species of birds, birds in decline, whether they're in decline on their withering grounds or their breeding grounds. We've provided some management ideas. But the bird community, the conservation community is understanding that we really need to make sure we're also bringing in people. So like with the Central Grasslands Roadmap, we're not just focusing on grassland birds, we're focusing on place, we're focusing on grasslands, we're focusing on communities, and wildlife. We're not being siloed, we're bringing it together. We're bringing the social and ecological together. We are connected to the place, our places influence us and our health and well-being, this honors our stewardship ethic, this also honors our indigenous ways. We have a responsibility in a relationship. So, we need to make sure people are part and core to what we do. They will determine what these places look like and what our future looks like. So, it's a multidisciplinary approach, like was already discussed, and it's a theme of this meeting. Our place is grasslands but it also matters what's below those grasslands, how are our soils, how are our aquifers, how are our aboveground water, the plants, the wildlife, the people? We need to recognize that these places have been stewarded for generations across our ranchers and for thousands of years across our Indigenous communities. And that these grasslands expand beyond borders, three countries, multiple nations, multiple states. And together we will change our grasslands for the future. But we also have to recognize that the challenges facing our grasslands are huge and no one entity, no one organization is going to solve it. But together, we can. Which is the inspiration for the Central Grasslands Roadmap. This is a 700-million-acre biome, 60% of it is what is in purple, it's been converted or it's so invaded by trees and shrubs it's not functioning as grassland. Forty percent is in the green and yellow, it's still grasslands, 300 million acres, half of that, 150 million acres are over soils conducive to farming or we're already seeing an early invasion of trees and shrubs. Every year we're losing 4 million acres to the plow or to tree and shrub encroachment. So, the Roadmap is meant to be a paradigm shift, focusing on four key strategies. Three countries, multiple Indigenous nations, bringing Indigenous nation, values and voices at the onset, working across seven sectors, including landowners, federal and state agencies, and also focusing on place, grasslands instead of just different groups or species. So, the strategies need to include in those green areas healthy soils, healthy range management, innovation, supporting the grass-based economy, keeping our grass grass side up, looking at voluntary easements and leases to help with that sustainability of those grasslands. In the yellow, those areas that are vulnerable, we need to also be doing improvements, we need to address the early invasion of trees and shrubs, and we need to make sure we're keeping that in the grass. And then in the purple, we need to be very strategic in where we're trying to convert back to native prairie and where we're trying to address that invasion. We need to make sure we aren't creating little islands of grasslands in the purple but we're pushing our grasslands back into the purple. The grasslands are taking back over this landscape. So, does focusing on place work? Can we make a difference? Will our wildlife and other communities respond? The 3 billion birds report I talked about, this is the trajectory of different birds out there on the landscape. So, if you're below zero, you're in decline; if you're above zero, you're doing well. And over the last few decades, people have come together around wetlands and wetland conservation across borders. They created the North American Wetland Conservation Act, they changed policy and they dedicated resources to wetland conservation. Water birds and waterfowl are positive and increasing. So we can do it. It does -- when we focus, when we come together, when we focus on place, we can make a difference. Can we do this for our grassland birds? I think we can. We also need to make sure that to do this, we need to make our grasslands beyond borders. To make this sustainable, everybody needs to have a voice. And we need to elevate all voices. That's how the chorus will return. That's how the sea of grasslands will return. And this includes our Indigenous nations. I want to honor that I am a visitor in the Indigenous working group of the Central Grasslands Roadmap and I'm here to share and elevate voices. And by meaningful Indigenous engagement, it means engagement at the onset, not as an afterthought, not asking for approval of something you've already created. Being open to ideas, being open to thousands of years of stories and wisdom and relationship with the land. Being intentional and making sure that it's a collaborative space, a circle. Everybody in the same space working together and sharing ideas and learning, and growing. As you know, relationships will happen at the speed of trust, just like conservation will happen at the speed of trust. And we need to honor and respect Indigenous sovereignty. We need to make sure that we're elevating and including Indigenous voices, we're integrating those thousands of years of knowledge into our future and how we steward the grasslands. We need to make sure we're including Indigenous voices in what we do. And we need to make sure that our programs are accessible. So, this means that when we have maybe farm building or other programs, what are the requirements, are they accessible to people? Are they accessible to Indigenous communities? Do they reflect broader values in this traditional range management? Can they see themselves in these programs and can they can have access to them? It's also about sharing information. We all need to share beyond our borders, beyond our places, and learn from each other and grow. We can't just work in our bubbles. This doesn't mean we're going to go out and tell people what to do on their land, we've got great demonstration sites, great things happening, we're going to hear from Dave, Holly, and Finn here in a few minutes as great examples. But we need to make sure that we're taking on the responsibility to share that, neighbor to neighbor, across cultures and across nations. When we came together through the Central Grassland Roadmap virtually and then in person, it's been amazing to see the eyes, the ears, the heart opening, the conversations being had, the people learning and sharing with each other, the new relationships that literally walked away and are now germinating as we move forward. Again, we had three countries, multiple Indigenous nations, and seven sectors all at the end of the meeting elevate and commit to advancing grassland conservation. That's pretty huge. But it didn't just stop there. As people left, people like Tata, a rancher in New Mexico, took the Grasslands and You! campaign to her town. She now has a challenge for her 4-H chapter to have them come up with the best information on how to save our grassland birds. She's making sure the next generation is connected and knows. It's also Shyanne Enwokpe who went back to Manitoba on their First Nation lands and created the grasslands strategy for their community. It's also now the Department of Interior elevating grasslands as a legacy landscape. It's also NRCS and their Great Plains Framework. And the National Wildlife Federation working to advance the Grassland Conservation Act modeled after the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, all the partners who are trying to help lift that. It's more than 50 organizations that came together to create the Grasslands and You! campaign. At the end of the day, we talked about this, people don't value our grasslands, our urban communities don't understand how they matter. This is a rainforest underground, this is going to save our climate, clean air, clean water. It matters to every one of us. So, I hope as we go through this conference, you think about what you're going to do better, what you're going to do different, how you're going to engage more people, how you're going to share the methods of our grasslands for the future. And that sharing of information -- just to hit home a little more -- we don't want it in isolation. Again, there's great things happening out on our landscapes. But the reality is those places are affected by what's across the border, what's across the fence. Whether that's how the water's moving across that landscape, the wildlife, how the pollinators are moving. So, we have great examples of conservation and stewardship. What does it happen when we make it contagious across those borders, across those fences when we are thinking of the soils, the watershed, the ecosystem? And then when we can replicate that across hundreds of places. And we have demonstration sites on private, tribal, Indigenous, and public lands. And how we see them as a system in a community. You can see how we can build this out and change the plight of our grasslands. We can also have demonstration sites like Dave, Holly, and Finn. They're not only bringing their community out to their ranch, they're also bringing out new partners. Those new partners are then going to other communities where they live and work and making it contagious. So, the rubber meets the road when we step that Roadmap down, when we catalyze conservation, and that's what's happening in Newell, South Dakota, with Dave, Holly, and Finn. They're improving the soils, they're improving the plants, the dickcissels, and the long-billed curlews are responding. They're creating a place that's viable for their cattle, for their operation, for their community, and they're making sure the next generation is engaged in learning too. So, with that, I'm trying to set this stage here for Dave and Holly. Again, walk away here, be voices of agents of change. And now, let's see a little bit more about what's happening in Newell, South Dakota.
>> We've started out of my grandparents' place. They moved here in the '30s and I had that opportunity to purchase this from my folks and family, and in the '90s started on this place of running cattle and sheep, which is what was always here. At one time, they had a dairy as well. And just trying to figure out a way to make it work. I was teaching school here in Newell and, again, didn't have the time to make the passes in the fields or to manage things like they should but as we went along, we could see that by putting some management into the grassland and into -- looking at how we kept diversity on the land so that we were able to improve our livestock health, as well as production. The options that diversity allows us in being able to withstand the ups and downs of markets in both livestock and sheep, it helps level out those peaks and valleys we run into from a financial point of view. And it just makes it work from year to year, not have a boom or bust or run into a shortfall. We just kind of level out our income streams and can have some predictability in our outcomes as far as meeting those financial demands.
>> Unfortunately, unless, you know, your payments are very small like if you've been handed down your ranch from the previous generation, I mean, that's not the case for most of us. And we have payments to make. So, unfortunately, a lot of times it's one or the other, the partners having a job in town is necessary. And, you know, for health insurance or things like that also. And in our case, I stayed home to raise the kids and Dave had his job in town. And, you know, a lot of these practices I wish we had started earlier because it does make it easier to manage things, you know, there's a lot of things that would have been easier for me back then when he was in town and I was here. So, a lot of the practices that we put in place today make it a lot easier to run things on a day-to-day basis.
>> A lot of these grasslands that we have tended to be severely overgrazed just because of their proximity to cropland and combined systems. So, as I moved back into this, we've tried to figure out a way to -- in a brutal environment, to try to hold water and produce more grass. And as we went through that, we found these practices to put in that would make that difference. And so, we're looking at monocultures of heavy and smooth brome and crested wheatgrass, trying to figure out ways to improve the production and increase that diversity, both for livestock nutrition and rangeland health. And the big thing about keeping water, we're a 15-inch rainfall environment, half of that comes in April, May, June, and then we've got to make use of what we get the rest of the year. So, the whole idea is how do we capture water, keep it on the land, and create a productive food source for our livestock. And so, through that, we really found that by taking those principles of rangeland health, we were able to increase that production, but also increase resilience. We really struggle with this time of year in August that's hot and dry, how do we keep those nutrition levels up? And diversity makes that difference. So, as we went down that path, the diversity in livestock is every bit as important as diversity in the plant community. So, not only do the sheep and cattle provide different revenue streams and we put an emphasis on wool and the regenerative agricultural product too because the nice thing about sheep is they make good use out of undesirable plants, many times weeds, that cattle won't select for consumption. And in this case, we can produce both a wool product and a textile product, and a meat product with the sheep enterprise.
>> Dave and Holly and the boys, they've been talking about things they've been doing here on the ranch, you know, elevating their level of management to achieve their conservation goals. And they've talked about it quite a bit. He's looking at these rangeland health indicators and constantly looking to stay within the confines of the potential of this land, but really taking opportunities and optimizing potential here for not only their livestock productivity but for wildlife water quality and all the other resource values that we're always looking at.
>> With the principles that Dad talked about, we like to have the cows run with the sheep so that we're getting two different forms of animal impact and helping out diversity to make it similar to what it was before European men came. I like trying to imitate the cow, the buffalo, and the sheep with the antelope and deer. It's just interesting for me to try and mimic how grazing was back then, how God designed it.
>> How do we consider bringing the sheep enterprise into an operation, and there's a lot of things to consider when you do that. The biggest thing is you just cannot think of it from a profitability point of view without considering all the other aspects that go with that, both in infrastructure needs, but also in the quality of life, and is that something you're going to be okay working with? It is a lot easier for people to bring sheep into a cattle operation than for people to bring cattle into a sheep operation from an infrastructure point of view. As you consider those things, you need to know what your plant diversity is out there. The old rule that was always out there is you can run one ewe behind one cow without having the competition for the forage resource. And that's pretty true if the diversity stays what it should be in these plant communities in Western South Dakota. If you get into a situation where your plant composition is primarily western wheatgrass and there's not a lot of forms of shrubs or other short grasses, then you're going to be in competition. But knowing that, you can still make use of those two enterprises together better than separately.
>> And for many good practices, we're taking better care of the land. And in taking better care of the land, then the animals that we run on that land are healthier also which in the end means the healthier product for consumers when they go to their supermarkets. So, that is a really feel-good thing that we can produce a really healthy product that will benefit a lot of people.
>> Well, that's our story. Kind of a long time getting there but certainly want to thank Tate and Tammy for having us and you folks for having us to share our part and our piece of that puzzle in the Central Grasslands Roadmap. You know, as holistic managers when we think about things, the first thing you get taught is you need to ask the why questions. And in this case, I think a lot of it. We need to be asking the why not questions, just looking at it from the other side of that thing. Why can't we have it all? Why can't we have these grassland birds? Why can't we have additional wildlife? Why can't we have profitability and quality of life with those healthy grasslands? And so that's how we kind of approach those things. And, you know, the cool thing about it is these practices work. As I went through my teaching career and with extension, you know, you start changing your thought patterns and how you look at how you're going to manage these grasslands and to go back to nature and mimic nature and let those natural processes occur, and you see they work, you know, that you have a prairie full of insects. You can apply those same principles and thank goodness for rangeland managers and new folks with vision because, guess what, you share that with the cropland people. So, everything that we do in our rangelands, we apply to our croplands and we get the same results. Wow, that's a concept, isn't it? It's just been -- and so, when I work with people, it's a struggle to -- with my enthusiasm to try to get them to see that as I see it. So, I really think we can restore those native grasslands and we can spend more time thinking about our pollinators and the soil biology and the diversity that's in that. On our ranch, you know, we're experiencing things like we talked about. We have greater plant diversity and greater animal, insect, and bird diversity, which is giving us indicators much like a soil sample on what direction we're going, you know, that's improved our infiltration, it's increased our organic matter. And a lot of those things occurred without us focusing on them. It's just that if you go down those paths of managing and mimicking nature, they're going to happen. That's going to result in healthier livestock, better infiltration, less supplementation, cleaner, and stronger wool fibers, you know, we think about that. We're not alone in these things. We do have partners like Tammy said. And unfortunately, in South Dakota, we have some great coalitions. I work for the Soil Health Coalition on a contract basis. But the Grassland Coalition is there also and they are the ones that started the Soil Health Coalition. And they're like-minded people. And the cool thing when you start looking across those native and prairie landscapes, these fellow ranchers are adopting these practices because they want that quality of life, they want those generations to be able to pass on. You know, it wasn't until this slide up here that the World Wildlife Fund came out and did these bird surveys, which I hadn't given much thought to, and that connected our piece to the puzzle. I mean, I didn't -- I wasn't targeting, trying to make habitat for birds, I'm trying to raise grass for cows and sheep and fight drought. And we have some indirect results. And that's -- you know, so then we see, aha, there's more of that. So, the way I look at it is we can make a difference.
>> And what a wonderful feeling it is to know that our little family is doing something that is actually positively impacting, not just our little ranch but beyond that. As a mother, my life is very much about nurturing. Rangeland health practices appeal to this nurturing part of me. Not only am I nurturing my children by providing a healthy enriching environment for them so they can reach their full potential but I'm also nurturing the soil, the microorganisms under the soil, as well as the wildlife on the land and in the air. That's a whole other level of fulfillment. And we aren't just this quirky family of range nerds but we are range health parent educators of three young men who are the next generation of range health activists. Our boys grew up immersed in this story of range health practices and its importance. It was never just a flat discussion of ranching inputs and profits. They know the whats and the whys and the hows of managing the land for the betterment of the environment and how very important their role in all this is. They will go out in the world, and whether or not they own land or have occupations in range management, they will be range health advocates in their communities. This week we're talking about rangelands without borders. My oldest son recently bought 40 acres in an adjacent state in an area where rangeland health practices just aren't that common yet. And he immediately began thinking about and asking questions about how to rebuild his soils and restore his plant communities. And he will because he understands just how important that is. And he knows how to find people like professionals like many of you in this room. And his neighbors will see that. Excuse me. And he is equipped to have conversations with them about the whats and the whys and the hows of rangeland health. And when the lark bunting flies over his place, she will see another welcoming home along her way. Across borders, across state lines, across communities, across generations, you all being out there, educating and assisting people like us, helping others to take that next step, it really does make a difference, not just in your communities but way beyond that.
>> So, when I started out as an ag teacher, you know, you're all full of yourself thinking you're going to change the world but you get humbled many times. And the thing I've come to learn in my teaching philosophy was trying to get my students to value what agriculture does for our society. And so, when you look at that picture, those students out there, and I work with a lot of them, how many of them are going to return to the ranch in that picture? One, maybe. And I always ask my students, "Well, what are the rest of you going to do in life?" "I don't know." Most of them want to come back to rural America. And that's great. We want them back, we want to make them want to come back and be able to come back. So, I always work that way to try to get them to learn those professions and trades of which rangeland managers and soil managers have great occupations in our rural communities. So, that's why I have a lot of students in those areas. So, they would come back. But those that became dentists, I challenge them when you've got that patient in that chair, use the talent of what we're doing and you make them know. I think my mike -- there we go. Is that there? I think I lost it. I got too excited. There we go. We've got something. So, anyway that empowered them to share our story. So, in that case, you know, that's what we were about, you know, trying to empower those people to share our story and be our voice and that's the biggest key. We've got to be proud of who we are and what we're doing, the difference we're making in rangelands but also in the world and in our communities. Our strength -- there we go -- of our communities is based how well those rangelands function. I lost it again. And we know that because if we ruin those rangelands or if we starve them out, we only hurt ourselves. And if we keep them healthy, it all snowballs back to us as people. And so, I see that. And then, you know, as you hear all the anti-animal ag and the things that ranchers are doing to our world and our environments, you know, that obviously gets my hackles up. But we are the solution, we make the difference. We have the ability to change this around. We can develop a model of ranching that we'll pass on to the next generations. You know, we have to change our mindsets and how we look at that. And by taking those principles and embracing them and understanding what we can do by managing intensive grazing, developing water, you know, we not only improve our environment but we improve what we're working with. So, we have those tools. And, you know, you folks have done a lot of that research and we just need to be able to apply that. And then looking at that just a little quick story. I did a project here where we tried to teach some sheep to eat Dalmatian toadflax and it took me four days to get them to eat one of them. And they ate everything else, even the old residue of prairie sandreed. So, but at any rate, we got it done. And then you can see the results as they start selecting that only. We have that. We have those understandings. You know, a nugget that I learned the other day, we're looking at technological advancement, it's not linear, it's exponential. You guys are going to be burdened and overwhelmed with all the things that are coming our way and understanding of our ecosystems and what we can do with them. You know, a nugget you hear and then you don't think about but I heard the other day it was for every cow on the green side, there's five cows worth of biology on the other side. And by golly, we better be feeding them otherwise, we're going to have some pretty thin cows. And that's what, you know, you start putting it in terms that ranchers can understand and then that starts making a difference. You know, the podcasts and the access to information that we have to change and open our minds is just incredible. You know, Tammy is right, we're at a tipping point. You know, we need to do something now. We can tip it back. You know, I'm positive of that that we can see it happening. You know, what I foresee going down the road, and I think we need to have that vision is these grasslands can be an economic powerhouse to us because what is it that the world needs? They need clean air, clean water, healthy, dense, nutrient-rich foods. We can do that. We can do that with what we've got. And at the same time, what are we going to do? We're going to improve our wildlife, we're going to bring those birds back. It all needs to be in balance. So, instead of us being this economic drain to our society and creating these environmental disasters, we're just the other way. And we've got to tell our city cousins that. We can become an economic powerhouse, providing GDP to our country, and providing that nutrient-dense food, and providing that national security. That's the way I think we have to look at it. And I certainly want to thank all of you for your contributions. You know, again, thank you for having us. And we'll certainly be around to visit and answer any questions for the next days. Tate, I'll turn it back over to you. Thank you.
>> It's working. That's good. I don't have that good teacher voice like Dave does. So, I guess, right now we're going to do a couple of question and answers. We loaded some questions up for folks to answer. But first off, I would ask Tammy what's next for the roadmap.
>> We're actually going to hire. We recognize that this is a huge landscape and it needs day-to-day attention so we're going to hire a Central Grasslands Roadmap director position. It's actually being advertised right now and please come see me. We really need someone who's collaborative, who's innovative, who's really about building trust and relationships. But we want to make sure that we're elevating grasslands. The other thing I did want to mention is just building off what was just talked about, it's sharing the stories, and it's the message and the messengers. And we all need to be messengers for our grasslands. And part of this Roadmap effort is sharing stories. We're going to have a story map and we'll be highlighting the family in Newell, South Dakota, that you just heard about. We're going to highlight Bill Milton and Winnett ACES, we're going to highlight Indigenous communities that are changing the trajectory of the grasslands on their lands, we're going to be highlighting across Canada, the US, and Mexico so we make it real and we help people see the sustainability and resilience of our environments across the landscape.
>> Thank you, Tammy. Just so you guys are all aware, please google Grassland Roadmap. There is piles of information on that website. So, they've done a lot of work to put information there, a lot of educational stuff that you can use inside schools, wherever you're at. So, please check it out. Next question for Dave. Where do you see -- or the Ollilas, I'm not going to say for Dave. Where do you see ranching going in the next 20 years?
>> Yes. There we go. Well, you know, that's what we need to look at. In the next 20, 25 years, come 2050, we are supposed to have 7 billion people on this planet, that's quite a carrying capacity. And so, how are we going to feed those people? And as we -- you know, as Tammy showed us, we're losing land that's being converted into farmland. We know that that's not a sustainable model unless they adopt soil health practices. But even so, annuals don't replace perennials and what they can do to the environment. But I certainly think that livestock are going to still be an income stream but I think we need to look at those other income streams that are going to be here because of the power of our grasslands and what we can do with them about cleaning up the air and cleaning the water, and becoming, providing those healthy food sources that people are looking for. So, we need to continue to change at how we look at what those grasslands do and how they function, but then how we can create enterprises out of them that will certainly support the ranching communities. So, I think it's -- if we really change that, we will be a great story 25 years from now for what we have accomplished. And it takes folks like Tammy and the visions of everyone that you have to make those differences. If you have anything, Holly?
>> As well as that, our boys are growing up hearing a lot of negativity surrounding farming and ranching. And they want to feel good about what they're doing. They want to feel good about helping the environment, not hurting the environment. And they want people to back them and resources to back them. So, I think that is something that needs to change in the future that ranchers can feel good about helping the environment rather than hurting the environment.
>> Well, we're going to have to use our teacher voices, I guess. Tammy, are you ready for that? Right. How can this group get involved? How can people get involved with the Grassland Roadmap? I mean, obviously, I started out -- my mike has come out, it came back on. Here we go. Obviously, I started out a few years ago. I think the reason that I've gotten involved is because we have the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies partnering in one of our offices and it might have raised a red flag to the people who were doing this work for the Roadmap and that's how I got pegged, but I'm glad I did. I'm very glad I did. So, anyway, tell people how they can get involved.
>> I'll try my projected voice. But so as Tate mentioned, you can go to the www.grasslandsroadmap.org, we have resources there that people are sharing from academics to federal partners to all sorts of partners across the three countries. We have information available in English and Spanish. You can sign up for newsletters so that you can stay apprised of what's coming. There's also multiple working groups. If you have expertise in policy, if you have expertise in communications, if you are from Canada or Mexico, we have working groups that are coming together monthly to discuss what are we doing, how are we advancing, how are we moving stuff forward. And again, we also will have those stories coming out. So, if you have a story you want to share, get it to us. I'll be here. But also if you go to that website, we have a facilitator who's helping keep us moving forward and helping make sure that all voices are being shared. And the other thing is just, like I said, with the Ollilas, the rubber meets the road when we step the map down and when we have community engagement, the community will, when we're bringing the wildlife, the resources together. And at the end of the day, we need more demonstration sites and we need more people getting out there and thinking about where do we already have good capacity that we can make it contagious and where are the gaps and opportunities so then we can weave this network across the landscape.
>> Well, that works perfect. And the next question I was going to have for the Ollilas is, you know, you all saw the video. That's a video that South Dakota Grassland Coalition makes for a featured producer each month. I think we've been doing that in South Dakota for four or five years now. It's been an amazing success. I know a lot of you -- maybe not a lot of you but I know some of you get these emails from me, probably more often than you want them. But I always like to share them. They are amazing things. But, you know, I guess Dave -- what Dave and Holly and Finn, what does the rancher need to do right now to tell the story? Like, you know, we talked about we need the support, let's sell it. How do we sell how good ranching is for everything?
>> Well, you know, we need to just stay on task with that. Documentation is always good to show and to show that, you know, one test doesn't tell everything, you need to have trends over periods of years and drought resilience. But, you know, it comes down to quality of life and that's what we really need to show. We need to talk about the improvements we're making. And it should be evident if our families are well and have good attitudes, then it should become quite apparent, you know, and tell a bigger story. Now, we all need to be involved in community organizations and groups that work together. You know, I feel like, again, 20 years back when I was naive or I should say 30 years -- I'm a lot older than I keep thinking I am. You know, when you bring up the words environmentalists, well, again, I would be on the defense, but no, we're collaborators. We might not always agree on everything but the common grounds that we can find, we should be taking advantage of those. And then as we come to understand each other better, then we're going to get along, at least respect what angle each person is coming from.
>> All right. How about a couple of more here? Time for a couple of more? All right. Very good. Tammy, I'm asking about the roadshow, grassland road show, fill us in on what that means.
>> Well, I hinted at it earlier. But the Roadmap director will where people want, they can come out and bring conversations and community together with that multidisciplinary approach. You know, we just did an example in Colorado. At the end of the day, the resources will come as we help scale this down and help show where things can happen. And we're looking at that in Colorado. Where do we have opportunities? Where do we have communities that want to do innovative things and we just don't have the resources? So, if we can come together and have workshops and conversations, and then identify what are the priorities, and then we can identify resources and partners to help make that happen. So, if you're interested in road shows and opportunities to have more conversations, you know, that's where we need to take this next. We went to the buy-in level, we got international exposure to grasslands, we're seeing grasslands being elevated. But at the end of the day, the grasslands, we have to be in a place to make those changes happen.
>> Very good. Thank you. And I guess one more question and then we can wrap up the plenary. I have a question for Dave. It's kind of, you know, being a ranch kid, growing up on a ranch, it was always important that we were doing the right thing. And, you know, like I said, making sure -- we just didn't use the communities like we use now. We need to make sure, like you guys are talking, the ranching, the NGO, you know, the policy side, it all has to come together. We can't be enemies. So, I guess what I'm wondering is like how -- what can the ranching community do to help the grassland roadmaps spread its word. You know, be a stronger advocate for ranching because, I mean, Tammy gets sick of me talking about it but we need more ranchers inside the Grassland Roadmap. We need more of that communication, that energy. So, I guess I just ask you what do you see, what do you guys see that maybe you guys provide to Grassland Roadmap?
>> Well, I won't just talk about me but I'll share about, you know, again, over my working career, the resources that are available now that weren't there 30 years ago are just tremendous. So we have all that. The coalitions in South Dakota, the Grassland Coalition, for example, they host a bird tour every year around the state. Well, that just brings more awareness. And once again, you're mixing ranchers with folks that like wildlife or however you want to define them, and then joining that. So, then you're starting to get the ranchers to take pride in what else they can do. And obviously, you've got some of those enterprise streams that can come in from that too that help make ranching more successful. But again, it's all about people and collaboration.
>> All right. Thank you. Thank you very much, everybody. We appreciate your attention. And thank you, Tammy. Thank you, Ollilas. Good job.
>> Okay. So, I am going to bring it to a conclusion. These folks, I know they would love to talk with you. I also -- I'm a birder myself. I grew up taking animal science classes in ranching but I also looked at birds. And I really knew that they didn't pay attention to borders. So, this is just a really great example. Your piece of the ground, really thinking across the whole continent. So, that is rangelands without borders, thinking way beyond that. So, that's our theme. Really hope that you'll enjoy it. We hear a couple of things, announcements. One is we are on the homelands of Shoshone-Bannock. But we also have, we have their stewardship of this land and then we have the generations of people that came before us such as the Basques. If you know anything about Idaho, you know the Basque sheepherders who set a foundation. So, if you love Basque food, there still are tickets for the Basque dinner tonight, which is just on the Basque block. Go to the registration desk and those are available. Also, as far as food, the trade show mixer, we're having lunch and oftentimes we have kind of a dinner with the trade show. This year, it's lunch. So, have a little walking lunch mix. Talk with folks, and visit our folks at the trade show, and thank our sponsors also. And then, again, we have a lot of people at this meeting. I am so happy about that. There's not going to be a lot of room in all the sessions so rub elbows, talk to people, reach out, think about what we are all together that we aren't individually. And I want to thank again these folks and all of you for being here. Have a great day.
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