Courtney White, an author and founder of the Quivira Coalition, lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, an area surrounded by jagged peaks and the open range of public lands. He is well aware of how livestock graze these lands; Quivira’s mission is collaborative conservation, specifically cooperation between ranchers and environmentalists. White himself is an exemplar of the confluence of environmentalism and agrarian land use. He started as a Sierra Club activist before, as he puts it, getting “frustrated listening to some of the environmental rhetoric…about how you deal with rural people.” Thus began the journey towards the creation of the Quivira Coalition in 1997. Quivira was inspired by ranchers, who, at the time of White’s frustration, were utilizing environmentally conscious grazing practices, including high-intensity low-duration grazing, which purportedly engenders the regeneration of native grasses. One such rancher is Bill McDonald of southern Arizona, who coined the term ‘radical center.’ The radical center is the space between preservationist environmentalism and disregard for the land’s health. As Courtney explains, “the idea is that we look at these landscapes collaboratively, ranchers and conservationists, and try to find different ways of co-managing [them].” White acknowledges that traditional grazing practices heavily degrade the land; however, when asked if cattle should be grazed on public land, he replies quickly: “of course.” The collaborative median that White and the Quivira Coalition foster offers a long-needed compromise in the context of controversial Western land management and conservation.
By: Fields Ford