Founded in 1997 by two conservationists and a rancher, the Quivira Coalition is a non-profit organization based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, dedicated to building economic and ecological resilience on western working landscapes. We do so through four broad initiatives:
(1) improving land health;
(2) sharing knowledge and innovation;
(3) building local capacity; and
(4) strengthening diverse relationships.
Our projects include: an annual conference, an agrarian ranch apprenticeship program, riparian and uplands demonstration restoration projects in New Mexico, capacity-building collaboration with the Ojo Encino Chapter of the Navajo Nation, a journal called Resilience, and the promotion of the idea of a carbon ranch, which aims to mitigate climate change through regenerative food production and land stewardship.
In 1997, our goal was to expand an emerging radical center among ranchers, conservationists, scientists and public land managers by focusing on progressive cattle management, collaboration, riparian and upland resto- ration, and improved land health. Our original mission was "to demonstrate that ecologically sensitive ranch management and economically robust ranches can be compatible."
We called this approach The New Ranch and described it as a movement that "operates on the principle that the natural processes that sustain wildlife habitat, biological diversity and functioning watersheds are the same processes that make land productive for livestock." The principles of The New Ranch were disseminated through workshops, lectures, publications, grants, consultations, collaborative land and water demonstration projects, newsletters, the New Ranch Network, and an annual conference.
From 1997 to present, at least 1 million acres of rangeland, 30 linear miles of riparian drainages and 15,000 people have directly benefited from the Quivira Coalition's collaborative efforts. We have organized over 100 educational events on topics as diverse as drought management, riparian restoration, harvesting water from ranch roads, conservation easements, reading the land- scape, ecological and photo monitoring, water harvesting, low-stress livestock handling, grassbanks and grassfed beef. We have published numerous newsletters, journals, bulletins, field guides and books, including a range- land health monitoring protocol and an in-depth manual on restoring function and health to incised channels. And lastly, we managed the innovative Valle Grande Grassbank, located near Santa Fe, eventually becoming producers of local, grassfed beef ourselves.
But most importantly, Quivira has sparked ideas across the West that grew over time into small bonfires of change. Through our work, we've convinced ranchers to adopt conservation practices, environmentalists to value ranching, agencies to be more open to innovation, scientists to become more involved and the public to support all of the above.
In conjunction with our success, the world kept changing -- which meant we needed to keep changing too. Although no one knows precisely what the decades ahead will bring, there are enough indicators of change to say with confidence that the 21st century has inaugurated a new era. Whether the concern is climate change, peak oil, ecosystem service decline, overpopulation, species extinction, or food and water shortages, the challenges ahead are varied and daunting.
We believe that one response to these multiple challenges is to increase ecological and economic resilience of communities and landscapes. The dictionary defines resilience as "the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change." In ecology, it refers to the capacity of plant and animal populations to handle disruption and degradation caused by fire, flood, drought, insect infestation or other disturbance. Resilience also describes a community's ability to adjust to change, such as shifting economic conditions, or a steady rise in temperatures.
In 2005, the United Nations published its Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a global evaluation of ecosystem services on which human well-being and environmental health depend. These services include the provision of food, fresh water, wood, fiber, fuel, and biodiversity; climate, flood, pest and disease regulation; nutrient cycling, soil stability, biotic integrity, watershed function, and photosynthesis; and spiritual, educational, recreational, and aesthetic experiences. According to the Assessment, nearly all of these services are in gradual or steep decline.