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Working Landscapes in the West
Pioneering New Approaches
The mission of the Sonoran Institute’s Working Landscapes Program is to protect in perpetuity all that working lands achieve – socially, culturally, economically, and ecologically – throughout the Rocky Mountain West.
A Model of Collaboration
Working farms and ranches can add substantial value to landscape conservation. However, their role in resource stewardship is often overlooked.
There is little doubt that farmers and ranchers are finding it increasingly difficult to make a living off the land. As the number of farms and ranches lost to demographic, economic and political shifts around land and water use, food production, and recreation escalate, the West loses vital pieces of its natural and cultural heritage.
The Sonoran Institute’s Working Landscapes Program seeks to collaborate with farmers and ranchers to creatively integrate traditional goals for working lands with conservation goals for healthy landscapes.
Key Goals at Fort Union Ranch
Our Working Landscapes demonstration project with the Fort Union Ranch in New Mexico exemplifies the three key objectives of this program:
1. Increase economic and ecological resilience on working lands. Resilience is the capacity to readily recover from stress or change.
2. Foster a culture of stewardship among working landowners throughout the West. Stewardship is an ethic that embodies responsible management and use of natural resources.
3. Empower the political voice of working landowner communities. Local, state and regional policy can substantially influence the capacity of individuals and communities to make a living off the land and to adopt stewardship practices. Influencing policy, however, requires that landowners be heard by policymakers.
Check out this video on conservation and economic prosperity for cities and towns in Montana from our partners One Montana. Click here to check them out.
“At Fort Union Ranch, owned by my family since 1882, land-use from the mid 1800s has left visible scars, including wagon tracks, quarries, timber cuts and lime kilns. More significantly, the occupancy by the army tended to dry out the landscape, which was once far greener and wetter than it is today. By 1895, when my great grandfather rode the range, the high prairie was already stressed and vulnerable to drought, and much of the wildlife had been slaughtered or driven off by habitat change. What we have learned is that any long-term interest in range management demands attention to ecosystem trends that go well beyond those related to cattle grazing. We also need to assess the impact of cattle and timber cutting on riparian areas and surface water. At stake is developing an economic use of the landscape that is sustainable in a time of climate change.”
~ Ned Ames Owning Member of The Fort Union Ranch
In July 2011, Katie Meiklejohn joined the Sonoran Institute team to lead our Working Landscapes Program. Katie will initially focus on a demonstration project that looks to integrate ecological and economic outcomes for sustainable ranch management at the Fort Union Ranch in New Mexico. Find out more about Katie.