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News and links from April 2001 to April 2002

Understanding dryland salinity

An article by Christine Jones:

There is absolutely no doubt that an increase in dryland salinity is closely linked to the loss of perennial native vegetation -- but I believe it is the "overlooked understorey" which has undergone the most dramatic changes. That isn't to say that too many trees have not been removed from the landscape in some areas. However, in the majority of cases the reduction in soil health has been a function of declining organic carbon levels BELOW ground more so than above ground, due to the loss of perennial groundcover and the types of disturbance regimes which stimulate soil forming processes. The consequent reductions in root biomass, soil organic matter and surface litter on our agricultural land can be linked to many degradation processes including soil structural decline, nutrient decline, water repellence and increased soil acidity and sodicity.

Read more on landholders.tripod.com website:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Posted 2 April 2002

How four Australian farm families manage their land in common

See the summary from Australian Broadcasting Corp's Landline on four families who manage in common, using a holistic goal and planned grazing for their cattle and goats.

"All the properties which are part of the common were set stocked and what we are now able to do is to rotate our herd across all those properties and very much enjoy the benefits of rotational grazing, so we've improved our pasture base. There are periods now when the stock are entirely off one property for a length of time which gives each landholder a bit of a rest from the duties of managing a herd and it also gives us huge benefits for our pasture resource," Phil Coop said.

Posted 23 March 2002

Mountain pine beetles aren't just pests

According to an article in the Spring 2002 issue of Ecoforestry (see the Ecoforestry website), mountain pine beetles and their cohorts -- blue stain fungi and bacteria -- "are a complex constituting an important agent of natural selection and succession. It was designed to break down dense stands of seral species in order to release more permanent communities, and simultaneously release nutrients, seedbed and soil-building materials, and to protect water-capturing mechanisms. The complex brings about normal and functional mosaic structures to western forests in general, and assures continuing dynamic interactions between all forest life."

"These beetles do not suddenly explode and work along, they are not simply 'forest pests,' as taught in most schools."

"Current and past unproven 'control measures' that use cutting trees to save trees typically use mass extractions without scientific verification that those procedures control anything."

Posted 25 March 2002

Wallowa County Business Facilitation

In January 2001, Wallowa County Business Facilitation (WCBF) began providing free and confidential management coaching to people in our northeast Oregon county who are serious about starting, strengthening, or expanding a business. Our full-time business facilitator, Myron Kirkpatrick, was trained by Ernesto Sirolli, who pioneered this Enterprise Facilitation method in Esperance, Western Australia. Links:

Posted 15 April 2001

News and links from June & July 2002

Index of articles and links

Plant mix needed to slow weed invasion

Monica Pokorny of Montana State University has found that a good mix of plants with different functions are needed to slow spotted knapweed.

"Basically, she found that forbs compete most effectively with spotted knapweed, which is also a forb. When all forbs were removed and only grasses remained or when all vegetation was removed, spotted knapweed density skyrocketed. When just deep forbs or just shallow forbs were removed, modest increases in spotted knapweed occurred. One year after all forbs were removed, there were almost 16 spotted knapweed plants per 10 square feet of treatment area. When all vegetation was removed, there were slightly more than 41 spotted knapweed plants per treatment area. The control site where no functional groups were removed had just 0.3 spotted knapweed in the same-sized area."

read more on MSU's site

Posted July 2002

Profile of Good Stewardship: Jim Winder

by Courtney White

Is it possible to create a drought-proof ranch? According to Jim Winder, a fourth-generation Sierra County rancher, the answer is definitely "yes."

It all starts with attitude. Jim accepts drought as a natural part of doing business. "I assume every year will be a drought year until proven otherwise," Jim says. "This is critically important. The biggest complaint for ranchers is their attitude, not cattle prices, genetics, or rain. Stubborn denial of a problem," says Jim, "has put more ranchers out of business than any environmentalist."

PDF file  Read PDF article (1.9 MB) on QuiviraCoalition.org

Posted 6 July 2002

Herding: How it works in the West Elks

by David Bradford and Steve Allen

One change that is increasingly being adopted by Western Slope ranchers is the practice of herding cattle. Herding can be described as a management technique where livestock are kept as a more-or-less single unit as they graze. Generally this technique is part of an overall management approach that is sometimes called planned grazing or holistic management. The planning is critical, as all management techniques that are used in grazing need to be considered as part of an overall goal. The West Elk Livestock Association has used herding as part of their grazing plans since the early 1990s and the approach has been a resounding success. The success on the West Elk has helped planned grazing and herding to spread throughout Western Colorado.

PDF file  Read PDF article (1 MB) on QuiviraCoalition.org

Posted June 2002

It takes time, practice and awareness to manage a ranch by heeding the land

by Tony Malmberg

. . . As biodiversity on the land increased, I began interacting more comfortably with community members of diverse interests. Knowing that each tool has a role in achieving a functional ecosystem, I no longer felt pressured to defend the tool of grazing.

The absence of defensiveness allowed for trust. I realized that the environmentalists and I value the same things -- a safe community, a healthy landscape and a stable economy. With this understanding, I no longer needed to convert the other side to my way of thinking. I began learning from them. . .

read more on Headwaters News

Posted June 2002

Profile of Good Stewardship: The Rafter F Cattle Company

by the Quivira Coalition

Roger Bowe and his family started managing the 14,000-acre Rafter F ranch (New Mexico, USA) holistically in 1983. As a result, 'Bare ground on the ranch decreased by one-third; ...the average distance between plants declined by two-thirds and snakeweed declined by 90%.' A well that ran dry in 1950 and stayed dry until 1990 now has 10 feet (3 m) of water in it.

Roger's ecological success on his ranch translated into economic success as well. Even though he more than doubled the size of his herd, Roger managed to cut the production costs per pound of beef in half while raising production. "We went from 15 pounds per acre to 32," says Roger. And his profits went up correspondingly.

PDF file  Read PDF article (1.31 MB) on QuiviraCoalition.org

Posted June 2002

Quivira Coalition conference report from the Albuquerque Tribune

by Sherry Robinson

Jan. 18 and 19 will go down in the books as the dates when the environmental movement reached a fork in the road.

The Quivira Coalition for five years has charted a new path for environmental moderates and anyone else disturbed by the decades-old warfare between environmentalists and ranchers.

At Quivira's first conference, participants could see before their eyes the group's evolution from a fringe group to a movement.Even after the Santa Fe group began turning people away, more than 300 participants packed a hotel ballroom. Speakers were passionate and, at times, emotional. During breaks, their listeners filled hallways with animated conversation. Nobody, it seemed, was unmoved.

PDF file Read PDF article (3.8 MB) from the Quivira Coalition website.

Posted June 2002

News and links from August & September 2002

Good drought management means balancing range health against cash flow

By Tony Malmberg

The ability to notice changing conditions differentiates good monitoring from poor monitoring. Responding to changing conditions quickly defines the secret of good management.

With more than 50 percent of our moisture coming during the dormant season, a covered soil surface slows runoff and insulates against evaporation. Vigorous plants will respond quickly to moisture. Poor plant vigor and bare ground will prolong a drought. With a covered soil surface and good plant vigor, we will be ready for rain.

"Drought is nearly always followed by a flood. But the floods are from excessive runoff that should be going into the ground; not excessive rainfall." — Kirk Gadzia

As a child, rain clouds would prompt me to ask my uncle, "Do you think it's going to rain?"

He would look up at the sky and thoughtfully reply, "If it doesn't, it will sure be a long dry spell."

I always had to stop and think about that for a while. As financial pressures arise in today's climate, I have to stop and remember, "The best we can do in a drought is prepare the land for rain."

Read more on headwatersnews.org website.

Posted September 2002

Organic beef and pastured chickens in Texas, U.S.A.

by Keith Richards

Peggy and Richard Sechrist have a 50 organic beef cattle, and raise 750-1,000 pastured chickens per month near Fredericksburg, Texas.

The cattle are entirely grass-fed. "As we have learned more about the changes that grain causes in cattle metabolism -- causing them to lower their pH and lose their ability to digest forage well -- we have significantly reduced the amount of supplemental feed," Peggy says. They use alfalfa hay if they need a supplement, and carefully plan and monitor grazing to limit the times the cattle need anything other than minerals.

After a one-time vaccination for Blackleg, their cattle don't get any antibiotics or synthetic treatments. "Our basic herd health is excellent," Peggy says, adding that the local vet is amazed. "He feels that our pasture management is the most important factor.".
Read more in The New American Farmer, 2nd Edition, avialable in print or as a free PDF download.

Posted August 2002

Community-supported agriculture in New York, U.S.A.

by Beth Holtzman

Elizabeth Henderson raises 70 crops (vegetables, herbs, flowers, melons and small fruit) organically on 15 acres.

"For me, farming for a community of people whom I know well is very satisfying," she says. "It's not like shipping crates off somewhere, where I never see the customers. I know everyone, and I know most of their children."

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of this CSA enterprise is the active, meaningful involvement of its members. "I think farmers ask much too little of the people who buy their food," Henderson says. "They don't ask them to pay enough or to contribute in other ways."

Not all CSA farms have a work requirement, but it's a cornerstone of Genesee Valley's success. During a season, members work three four-hour shifts at the farm and two 2.5-hour shifts in distribution. Because the farm is about an hour's drive from Rochester, where most members live, members work to both harvest crops and coordinate distribution.

"It's really important to learn how to design volunteer work so that people can give what they really want to give," Henderson explains.

Read more in The New American Farmer, 2nd Edition, avialable in print or as a free PDF download.

Posted August 2002

Raising beef and improving range health, Colorado, U.S.A.

by Mary Friesen

Mark Frasier of Woodrow, Colorado raises 3,400 head of beef cattle yearlings and 400 head of fall-calving cows using management-intensive grazing on 29,000 acres of native range.

"Now, we're seeing a healthier landscape and growing more grass. And we are just in the past few years starting to increase the number of cattle we graze. Grazing more cattle on the same resource is going to have an economic advantage."

Through his methods of holistic management and rotational grazing, Frasier has been able to increase the size of his herd by about 15 percent. More importantly, he has seen a drop in the cost of production from 35 cents per pound when he took over the operation to 11 to 12 cents per pound today. Frasier says the costs are actual and not adjusted for inflation.

Read more in The New American Farmer, 2nd Edition, avialable in print or as a free PDF download.

Posted August 2002

Antony Challenger's comments on Allan Savory's book

by Antony Challenger

Note: Antony Challenger is advisor to the Minister of Natural Resources in Mexico. This is his response, posted with permission, after meeting Allan Savory and reading Holistic Management: A new framework for decision making (Island Press, 1999).

As I continue to read your book [Holistic Management: A new framework for decision making], I can almost feel things falling into place in my mind, as you gradually provide precious insights and nuggets of information that are the missing links in chains--ecological and cognitive--that in some cases I didn't even realize had pieces missing. And while in some cases I have been aware, sometimes only dimly, of many of the things you write about, many others are new to me. But the most important thing is that all of these pieces of information form part of a whole (sic!) which is indeed new, and which has already changed forever the way in which I perceive the natural world which I thought I understood so well, and especially with regard to plant-animal interactions in seasonally humid, grass dominated environments.

That a single book can modify one's perception of the world in quite an important way, is always testament to the profound wisdom and common sense of its author, and his or her (both, in this case) skills of communication. This in itself is rare, and such books are precious items. It is a still more extraordinary thing to produce a book able to illustrate through succinct argument and clear phrasing, that the way in which people do or fail to do certain things, have the most profound consequences for the long term health of our global environment, and for no less a thing than the very future welfare of human civilization. In fact I know of no other such book.

This isn't intended to be a eulogy, although its beginning to sound like one, but I hope you don't mind my just letting you know how much I value the insights you share with others through the medium of your book, and the fact that I do entirely understand the implications of your important discoveries (that is what they are) about the way people organize their affairs with respect to their environment and each other. As I said before, and I think its an appropriate analogy, reading your book has been like dropping a crystal into a saturated solution--I have got quite close to perceiving some of the things you see so clearly, without ever quite having got there. But reading your book has allowed things to slip neatly into place. And its probably because of that that my convictions regarding the importance of your work and your message are so strong.

Consequently, I will try at every opportunity to ensure that the information and advice which I give to the Minister reflect these convictions, particularly with regard to those things which he looks to me for insightful information about, which mostly comes down to the management and conservation of terrestrial ecosystems. Obviously, this will always fall short of holistic decision making at the political level--more's the pity--but for the moment I don't see many opportunities for consequential paradigm shifts in Mexico's corridors of power! However, holistic management perceived as it currently is in a rather limited way, as a tool for sustainable resource management in the agricultural and environmental fields, can and should be encouraged in Mexico, and is capable of having a profound effect on Mexico's environment and natural resource conservation, and it is here that I am likely to be able to have some influence, I hope.

Posted 25 August 2002