JeffAnnJeff Lee is the co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Land Library, a residential library located on a historic ranch in one of Colorado’s most beautiful and dramatic high country grassland basins. The Buffalo Peaks Ranch, as it is known, will eventually house a collection of over 35,000 books related to natural history, conservation, and the American West. These books will be dispersed throughout ranch in houses and agricultural structures that have been preserved and restored by a growing team of enthusiastic volunteers. The ranch will become a place where individuals can immerse themselves in a natural setting, surrounded by books, for days at a time to read, write, and work on projects related to the West’s unique landscapes.

The idea for the Land Library came to Jeff and his wife Ann (the library’s other co-founder) when they visited a residential library in Europe during the mid-1990s. Given their deep love of books and land, Jeff and Ann immediately saw the potential for a similar concept in Colorado that centered around the history and landscapes of the American West. More than 20 years and tens of thousands of books later, their vision has become a reality—the Rocky Mountain Land Library is open for business and continuing to grow and evolve.

For anyone who has listened to this podcast, you know that the Land Library is my dream come true—it combines ranches, conservation, nature, and books—so I was obviously extremely excited to chat with Jeff. In a little over an hour, we covered a ton of interesting information, including the project’s backstory, the history of the ranch, and Jeff and Ann’s long term vision for the Land Library. Of course, we discuss books, and Jeff has many excellent recommendations that were brand new to me. It’s worth noting that the Land Library is in the midst of the a fundraising campaign, so I encourage you to visit their KickStarter page, watch the video, and donate to the cause… I just did, so you definitely should too! Links to everything are in the episode notes.

If you love the West, love books, and love the land, I can guarantee you will love the Land Library and this episode. Enjoy!

Photos courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Land Library


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:40 – How Jeff describes his work
3:45 – Back story on the Land Library
4:40 – Jeff’s introduction to the West
7:00 – Lake Powell, water, and differences between the East and West
7:55 – The early beginnings of Jeff’s book collection
10:55 – The initial idea for the Land Library
13:50 – Challenges of storing tens of thousands of books
17:00 – South Park, Colorado described
19:30 – Early search for a Land Library site
23:45 – Unique experience on a ranch versus pristine wilderness
25:45 – Current state of the Land Library
28:10 – Cook’s House restoration – Kickstarter Campaign
29:40 – History of Buffalo Peaks Ranch
34:10 – How Jeff defines “conservation”
35:30 – Interesting people and groups who have visited and volunteered at the ranch
40:00 – How Jeff and Ann were able to take the Land Library from an idea to reality
42:20 – Jeff’s recommended books about the West
44:45 – Recommended biographies
51:00 – The interconnectedness of historical figures
52:25 – Purchase these books at your LOCAL bookstore!!!
53:20 – Books that Jeff has gifted or recommended
57:40 – Jeff’s most powerful outdoor experience
1:00:10 – Favorite location in the West
1:03:30 – Jeff’s request of the listeners
1:04:40 – Connect with the Land Library online

* Please buy these books at your local bookseller!!!

 

speaking-to-colorado-rocky-mountain-school-high-school-students-about-river-restoration

Connor Coleman

Connor Coleman is the founder of Resiliency Lands, a progressive, conservation-minded land management and advisory group committed to promoting ecological and resource resiliency. Prior to starting Resiliency Lands, he held a variety of positions closely connected to the land, jobs that would be on the wish-list of anyone who loves adventure and the American West—wildland firefighter, cowboy, bison manager, and conservationist, just to name a few.  Connor is currently based in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, and he resides on a spectacular ranch just outside of Carbondale.

You may be surprised to learn that Connor was not born and raised in the West or on ranches.  On the contrary, he grew up in Ohio, went to college in North Carolina, and after paying his dues in east coast conservation and earning two master’s degrees from Duke University, he headed West to focus his energy on western landscapes. Thanks to an insatiable curiosity, a rock-solid work ethic, a service mindset, and a willingness to insert himself into new and uncomfortable situations, Connor has carved out a professional niche for himself in Colorado doing rewarding, exciting, and important work.

lighting-a-prescribed-fire-in-nc-on-right

Connor during his firefighter days.

Connor’s education and unconventional career path can serve as a great blueprint for anyone who loves the American West and wants a life centered around land, conservation, and natural resources. When I was in my early twenties, I would’ve loved to meet a guy like Connor who could point me in the right direction. So in this episode, we talk in depth about his career and his ability to “put himself out there” to create exciting professional opportunities.  We dig deep into his thoughts on conservation in the West, as well as issues related to forest fires throughout the country.  Connor loves to read and learn, so he also has tons of great book and film recommendations.

connor-fly-fishing-grand-mesa

Connor enjoying evening fly fishing

We cover a ridiculous amount of information, so be sure to check out the episode notes below for the full list of topics we discuss. Enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Connor Coleman


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:32 – How Connor describes his work
3:55 – Importance of conserving working ranches
7:55 – Grazing as an vital part of conservation
13:40 – Examples of some of Resiliency Land’s projects
16:35 – Where did Connor grow up?
18:50 – Connor’s decision to make conservation a career
22:45 – Brief history of NC barbecue
25:00 – Early career in conservation
29:10 – Grad school at Duke
30:30 – Difference between conservation in NC versus CO
32:20 – How easterners misunderstand public lands in the west
33:30 – Time as a wildland firefighter
36:30 – Fire policy in the east versus west
40:00 – Longleaf pine book recommendations
41:15 – Adventures at Camp Lejeune
42:20 – Moving out west to work on ranches
45:40 – Challenges of adjusting to the demands of ranch work
48:30 – Working with bison on the Zapata Ranch
49:50 – Bison and bison book recommendations
55:20 – Transition to the Aspen Valley Land Trust
59:20 – Lesson learned working in conservation in different parts of country
1:01:20 – Thoughts on service and giving back to the community
1:06:15 – Favorite books about the American West
1:10:15 – Favorite films
1:12:50 – Surprising activities
1:14:35 – Craziest experience in the outdoors
1:18:45 – Favorite place in the West
1:20:20 – Biggest challenge facing the West
1:23:00 – Connor’s request of the listeners
1:25:15 – Connect with Connor online
1:25:55 – Bonus book recommendations!

Information Referenced

Connors Book Recommendations

Connor’s Film Recommendations

image3

Taylor Keen, just before an Omaha tribal war dance

Taylor Keen is a teacher, community builder, and Native American thought leader based out of Omaha, Nebraska.  His back story is as diverse as it is impressive—he’s a member of both the Omaha Tribe and the Cherokee Nation, attended Dartmouth College (BA) and Harvard University (Masters of Public Policy, MBA), and enjoyed a successful stint in corporate America before returning to Nebraska to teach entrepreneurship and management at Creighton University.  His most recent undertaking is Sacred Seed, a project with the goal of preserving Native American heritage and history through collecting, growing, and spreading the seeds of corn and other traditional Native American foods.

Just before planting…

The writer Wallace Stegner theorized that people generally fit into one of two categories—“Boomers” or “Stickers.” Boomers are “those who pillage and run” and want “to make a killing and end up on Easy Street.” Stickers are just the opposite—they are “motivated by affection, by such a love for place and its life that they want to preserve it and remain in it.”1  Taylor is the walking embodiment of a Sticker.  Given his drive, intelligence, and education, he could’ve followed the path of the Boomer and pursued any number of careers.  But a deep love of his Native American heritage and his community called him back home to teach, lead, and live a life devoted to service of others.  It’s an inspiring story.

…and full bloom.

I could’ve talked to Taylor for hours and I only asked about a third of the questions I had prepared, but we still managed to dig into a wide variety of fascinating topics.  We discussed the history and mission of Sacred Seed and where he sees the project going in the future.  We talked about his path from the West to the Ivy League, the decisions that led him to transition from corporate America to higher education, and some very interesting Native American history.  One of my favorite parts of our conversation was Taylor’s recounting the advice he received from his grandfather soon after graduating from Harvard Business School.

This was a very enlightening conversation for me, and I greatly appreciate Taylor taking the time to chat.  I encourage you to visit the Sacred Seed website and watch the video—you can find links to everything we discuss in the episode notes on the webpage.  Enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Taylor Keen

1 Wendell Berry, It All Turns on Affection (2012)


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:55 – How Taylor describes his work
4:00 – Sacred Seed Project
5:35 – Early beginnings of Sacred Seed
9:00 – Discovering the importance of seed banking
10:00 – Threats to native seeds from large corporations
11:45 – Difference between Omahas and Cherokees
13:50 – How Taylor found his first ancient seeds
15:55 – How the plants compliment each other, Four Sisters
20:45 – How Sacred Seed has changed Taylor
22:40 – The link between elders and the ancient ways of planting
25:30 – Fall festival
26:45 – Future plans for Sacred Seed
29:20 – Taylor’s changing approach to the project—MBA to Holistic thinking
33:45 – Similarities between Sacred Seed and the reintroduction of bison
36:45 – The fight for sustainable agriculture
37:10 – Meaning of Omaha
38:10 – Where Taylor grew up
39:00 – Taylor’s journey to the Ivy League
41:15 – Biggest surprise when moving east
43:55 – Harvard graduate school and corporate America
45:35 – Taylor’s grandfather’s wise advice
49:25 – Discussing Sebastian Junger’s Tribe
51:00 – Taylor’s thoughts on the importance of tribes
53:50 – Best books for learning about Native American culture
56:45 – Taylor’s advice to his younger self
58:00 – Other favorite books
1:02:50 – Taylor’s request of the audience
1:06:00 – Connect with Taylor online

My 10 Favorite Books of 2016

My 10 Favorite Books of 2016


As you may know, I send out a brief bimonthly email in which I recommend some of the best books I’ve recently read. This year, I recommended 37 books, which is an admittedly ridiculous amount of reading. In an effort to distill it down to a more user-friendly level, here are my top ten favorite books that I read in 2016. The subject matters vary widely, but I wholeheartedly recommend them all.

I kept the descriptions as brief as possible, so click on the monthly list link to view the original email with my full review. To sign up for the future book recommendation emails, follow this link or just send me an email.


Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan – One of my favorite books of all time, and you don’t need to be a surfer to fully appreciate it. A true work of art. (Sep/Oct list)

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger – I think about this book on almost a daily basis, and I believe Junger’s ideas on community and purpose explain many of the societal challenges facing the U.S. today. (Jul/Aug list)

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport – This book reshaped the way I approach my professional and personal projects, and it made me even more skeptical of social media than I had been. (Mar/Apr list)

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight – The best business memoir I’ve ever read. (Nov/Dec list)

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – Extremely interesting theories on the evolution of humans, and it actually pairs well with Tribe mentioned above. (Jan/Feb list)

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko – Part history of the American West and part western water policy primer, all layered on top of a wild, exciting adventure narrative. (May/Jun list)

The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt, A Lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Natural History by Darrin Lunde – I’ve read an absurd number of TR books, so my standards are high—this one not only explores a little known (but super-interesting) part of TR’s life, but it also details the rise of America’s natural history movement. (Jul/Aug list)

Being Nixon: A Man Divided by Evan Thomas – Richard Nixon was a strange, strange, strange man. (Jan/Feb list)

Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch by Dan O’Brien – Conservation, bison, ranching, regenerative agriculture, emotional memoir, and a natural history lesson all rolled into one book. (Nov/Dec list)

End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World by Joel K Bourne Jr. – A cautionary examination of what lies ahead if the we can’t figure out a solution to the coming global food crisis, followed hopeful examples of innovators who are attacking the challenge head on. (Sep/Oct list)





larry-yaw

Architect Larry Yaw

Larry Yaw is a renowned architect based in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley whose work connects people with nature using contemporary, sustainable, conservation-focused designs. Growing up in rural Montana gave Larry a deep appreciation for the utilitarian character of ranch homes and their thoughtful integration into the landscape, aspects that form the foundation of much of his work today.  Through his design, Larry has demonstrated a unique ability to pay homage to the past while boldly pushing beyond preconceived notions of architecture in the American West.

If I had to use one word to describe Larry it would probably be “adventurous”—a quest for adventure seems to guide all aspects of his professional and personal lives.  As you’ll hear in our conversation, Larry has traveled the world many times over, sometimes with his full family in tow, seeking out enriching experiences everywhere from the South Pacific to the Swiss Alps. He is also intellectually adventurous, as evidenced by his deep knowledge of history, conservation, Native Americans, and many other subjects related to the West and beyond.  Physical adventures are a daily occurrence for Larry, whether it’s pedaling single track, stalking trout with his fly rod, hiking in the high mountains around Aspen, or shooting birds on the Montana prairies. All of these experiences provide the fuel that keeps Larry’s professional creative engine firing at turbo speed, decade after decade.

This was a super-fun conversation, and I came away from it inspired and enlightened.  We discussed a broad range of topics including Larry’s architecture, his creative process, and how he has managed to stay consistently creative for so long. We chatted about his early years in Montana, some of his adventures around the world, and his thoughts on conservation in the American West.  Larry is a true student of the West, so he had plenty of book recommendations. There is a lot of great information in this interview, so don’t forget to check the episode notes for links to everything we discuss.

Photo courtesy of Larry Yaw


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:45 – How Larry describes his work
3:40 – Larry describes his architecture
5:00 – Montana’s influence on Larry’s work
7:20 – Early years in Montana and Florida
9:00 – College years and path to graduate school
13:25 – Post-grad school early career
15:15 – Decision to move back West
16:30 – Origins of Larry’s adventurous outlook
22:00 – International travel’s influence on his work
23:55 – Around the world family trip
25:05 – Adventures on Aconcagua
26:22 – Cultural influences of travel
27:10 – Rugged individualism versus community
29:00 – Design for an active, mountain-inspired lifestyle
30:20 – Process versus goals
32:45 – His creative process
34:40 – Evolution of Larry’s work
36:30 – Thoughts on conservation
38:30 – Interactions with Native Americans
41:00 – Sustainability and design
42:30 – Interactions with the Blackfeet Tribe
46:30 – “Once Proud” painting series
48:30 – Recommended books on Native Americans
51:15 – Larry’s favorite books
55:20 – Favorite documentaries
56:50 – Favorite outdoor and artistic activities
1:01:25 – Craziest outdoor experience
1:04:00 – Favorite location in the West
1:06:45 – Biggest challenge/opportunity facing the West
1:08:55 – Advice to his younger self
1:12:10 – Larry’s request to the listeners
1:13:50 – Connect with Larry online

 

Pat O’Toole is a rancher who, along with his family, owns and operates the Ladder Ranch, a large-scale cattle and sheep operation that straddles the Colorado-Wyoming border. Pat’s wife Sharon’s family established the ranch in the Little Snake River Valley back in 1881, and now, six generations later, the family’s hard work, thoughtful vision, and a deep respect for the land have made the Ladder Ranch a shining example of the combined effect of productive agriculture and land conservation.

pat-o-toole

Pat O’Toole and his family

Pat’s background is far outside of the norm for many multi-generational ranchers—he grew up in south Florida, majored in philosophy in college, and just before he and his wife enrolled in law school, they decided to return to her family’s land to continue in the family business of ranching. Since then, the O’Tooles have not only run a financially successful operation, but they have simultaneously improved wildlife, bird, and fish habitat throughout the ranch. By thinking outside the box and partnering with both non-profit and governmental organizations, the Ladder Ranch has set a new standard for conservation, creative problem solving, and sustainable land stewardship.

We had a fun, in-depth conversation that covered a wide variety of topics that will be of interest to anyone who loves the West, whether you’re involved in ranching or not. We discuss Pat’s thoughts on cooperation between ranchers and environmentalists, and how the relationship between the two groups is getting stronger and more positive every year. We chat about water in the West, and why it is important to keep water on ranches rather than being sold off to municipalities. We also dig into Pat’s unconventional background, his thoughts on the future of land conservation, and of course, favorite books, history, and his favorite location in the West.

Pat is an interesting guy who has thought very deeply on issues related to the American West, including conservation, water, and agriculture. There’s a lot of great information in this interview, so I hope you enjoy!

Photo courtesy of Pat O’Toole


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:59 – How Pat describes his work
3:41 – History of the Ladder Ranch
4:45 – Discussion of the Homestead Act’s effect on settlement
9:07 – Cooperation between ranchers and environmentalists
9:55 – Benefits of grazing cattle and sheep
11:00 – Rotational grazing on the Ladder Ranch
11:55 – Importance of not breaking up ranches
13:00 – “Hopefuls” and “Hatefuls”
14:28 – The “Era of Limits”
19:00 – Pat’s personal background
21:55 – TR’s creation of Forest Service
23:28 – Amazing feats of past generations
26:00 – Ingraining the conservation ethic in children
28:10 – Pat’s role models
30:36 – The Ladder Ranch’s community of conservationists
33:00 – Importance of keeping water on ranches
37:00 – Flood irrigation explained
41:25 – Importance of keeping water our current water law in tact
42:30 – Leopold Conservation Award
44:00 – Endangered Species Act
46:50 – Favorite books
49:42 – Ferry Carpenter’s ranch library
50:15 – Favorite movies
53:40 – Craziest experience in the outdoors
54:50 – Favorite location in the West
55:22 – History of Battle Creek
57:40 – Pat’s request of the listeners
58:50 – Connect with the Ladder Ranch online
Information Referenced

Nicholas Coleman – Painting the Heritage and History of the American West

Nicholas Coleman – Painting the Heritage and History of the American West


“An Old Meeting Place” by Nicholas Coleman

Nicholas Coleman is an ultra-talented, hard-working artist based out of Provo, Utah, and he paints some of the most interesting and beautiful works I’ve ever seen. His primary subject matter is the American West, with a focus on landscapes, natural history, wildlife, Native American culture, and exploration. I came across Nick’s work on Instagram of all places—in the midst of the app’s thousands of images, noise, and distractions, one of Nick’s images boldly stood out from all the rest. It stood out so much that I wanted more, so I went to his website and was blown away by his work.  The more I learned about Nick, the more impressed I became—he is a multifaceted individual with a fascinating back story.

Nick is not your stereotypical artist. He is a devoted hunter, fisherman, and trapper, and he’s also a voracious reader who probably knows more about western history than many college professors. He has a focused and disciplined approach to his art, working six days a week and never sitting around waiting to “get in the mood” to paint. With his deep love of art and the West, combined with his rock solid work ethic, it’s no surprise that he has been able to build a stellar reputation in the super-competitive and challenging world of professional art.

Nicholas in his studio

I could’ve talked to Nick for hours, because so many of his interests overlap with mine. We did manage to dig into the details of his art and artistic process.  We chatted about his international travels to South America, Africa, and New Zealand, as well as his thoughts on how those adventures have influenced his life and work. We discussed his education as an artist, as well as his advice for those aspiring to make art a full-time career.  We also talked a lot about Teddy Roosevelt, which is always fun. See below for the full list of topics covered.

Thanks to Nicholas Coleman for joining me on the podcast. I hope you enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Nicholas Coleman


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Episode Notes

Topics Covered

3:11 – How Nicholas describes his work
4:40 – His family’s history in the West
5:55 – Hunting, fishing, trapping, and their influence on his work
8:50 – Childhood experiences that led to a career in art
10:35 – Theodore Roosevelt and Carl Akeley
13:00 – Thoughts on hunters as conservationists
17:03 – How international travel influenced his art and outlook
19:55 – Thoughts on being self taught versus academically trained in art
23:00 – Nicholas’s artistic process
27:30 – A typical day
29:10 – The backstory on Nicholas’s studio
30:30 – The role that history plays in his work
32:10 – Where he gets his ideas for painting
34:15 – How he ensure that his paintings are historically accurate
36:40 – Recommended books about Native Americans
38:25 – The evolution of his art over the last 10 years
40:10 – How it feels to create art
42:00 – Thoughts on embracing technology
45:40 – What “conservation” means to Nicholas
48:55 – Favorite Theodore Roosevelt books
50:10 – Lessons he’s teaching his children about conservation
51:00 – Advice for aspiring artists
53:45 – Favorite books
55:50 – Favorite documentaries
56:00 – Other hobbies, including motorcycles
59:40 – Nicholas’s insane Alaskan hunting adventure
1:05:40 – Favorite location in the American West
1:07:30 – Biggest challenge facing the American West
1:11:00 – Nicholas’s request of the listeners
1:11:40 – Connect with Nicholas online

Information Referenced

Spencer Williams spent his summers as a river guide in Colorado’s Upper Arkansas River Valley, and those experiences on the water led him to law school and into a career as a water rights attorney. He now works for Ponderosa Advisors, advising clients on water rights and water markets across the American West. Spencer also works with Ponderosa’s new software platform Water Sage, an innovative software program that is redefining water research across the West.

In this episode, we dig into the details of water in the West—What exactly a what right is, how water rights can be severed from the land, and the history of water as a property right. We talk about water as an investment, and how big money is currently rushing into the West’s water markets. We discuss Spencer’s work at Ponderosa and Water Sage, and we also tell some stories from his days as a river guide. It was a fun and informative conversavation about an important topic. I hope you enjoy!


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This episode is brought to you by Mountain Khakis. Rugged. Authentic. Reliable. Timeless. What started as a casual conversation at the Shady Lady Saloon in Jackson Hole, WY has become a top-performing mountain-inspired lifestyle apparel brand. Established in 2003, Mountain Khakis quickly became a staple in the wardrobe of everyone from ranch hands to golf pros, those who travel by jet, as well as those who travel by thumb. The Mountain Khakis brand story continues to resonate as it connects to the enthusiast who believes that freedom and rugged adventure is a way of life. Join the conversation @MountainKhakis and www.mountainkhakis.com

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Episode Notes

Topics Covered

4:30 – How Spencer describes his work
7:00 – Water Rights 101
9:00 – History of water in Colorado
10:10 – Water as a property right
12:00 – Ability to severe water from the land
16:15 – Wells versus water rights
18:33 – “First in time, first in right” explained
21:50 – Ranch buyer “rules of thumb” for evaluating water rights
25:30 – Non-use and water rights abandonment explained
28:55 – Water rights as an investment
35:30 – Spencer’s experience as a river guide
37:00 – Describing Colorado’s Upper Arkansas River Valley
40:00 – Arkansas River flow management explained
42:45 – More river guiding stories
45:00 – Water Sage explained and discussed
54:00 – Future plans for Water Sage
55:35 – Spencer’s thoughts on the future of water in the West
57:35 – Favorite books
59:17 – Favorite documentaries
59:45 – Favorite location in the West
1:00:15 – Recommended location and activities
1:01:40 – Biggest challenge facing Colorado
1:03:05 – Spencer’s request of the listeners
1:05:00 – Spencer’s contact info
Information Referenced

Erik Glenn is the Executive Director of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, a land conservation organization that has protected over 465,000 acres of working ranches throughout the state of Colorado. In this episode, Ed and Erik discuss a wide array of topics including the importance of keeping ranches in agricultural production, the basics of land conservation in the West, Colorado’s role as a leader in national land conservation, Erik’s family history as ranchers, and much more.

Erik Glenn (far right) with two Colorado ranchers.

Erik was the perfect first guest for the podcast, so I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did!


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This episode is brought to you by Mountain Khakis. Rugged. Authentic. Reliable. Timeless. What started as a casual conversation at the Shady Lady Saloon in Jackson Hole, WY has become a top-performing mountain-inspired lifestyle apparel brand. Established in 2003, Mountain Khakis quickly became a staple in the wardrobe of everyone from ranch hands to golf pros, those who travel by jet, as well as those who travel by thumb. The Mountain Khakis brand story continues to resonate as it connects to the enthusiast who believes that freedom and rugged adventure is a way of life. Join the conversation @MountainKhakis and www.mountainkhakis.com

Mountain Khakis


Episode Notes

Topics Covered

5:06 – How Erik describes his work
6:11 – History of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT)
8:45 – What “land conservation” means to Erik
11:20 – Details on how CCALT conserves ranches, basics of conservation easements
14:40 – The effects of ranch subdivision
17:15 – Why a vegan living in LoDo should care about working ranches
22:30 – The importance of grazing for a healthy ecosystem
26:40 – Colorado’s role as a leader in conservation
29:45 – Erik’s family history in agriculture
33:00 – Why Erik chose conservation as a career
36:15 – Advice to young people who want to work in conservation
43:20 – Importance of financial sustainability for land trusts
49:30 – One thing that Erik would change about conservation
53:30 – Erik’s favorite books
55:20 – Erik’s favorite documentaries
57:30 – Erik’s favorite place in the West
59:10 – Erik’s recommendations for people visiting the West
1:00:30 – Erik’s request of the listeners

 

Information Referenced

This article originally appeared in “Crossroads, Spring 2016 Issue,” the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust newsletter.  You can download a pdf of the article here, watch CCALT’s “Forever Colorado” video here, and support CCALT’s efforts here.

The great western author Wallace Stegner believed that Americans generally fit into one of two categories—“Boomers” or “Stickers.” Boomers are “those who pillage and run” and want “to make a killing and end up on Easy Street.” Stickers are just the opposite—they are “motivated by affection, by such a love for place and its life that they want to preserve it and remain in it.”1

Since America’s westward expansion, the West has always attracted more than its fair share of Boomers. Like moths to a flame, Boomers have flocked to the West for its expansive landscapes and natural resources that offer a potential one-way ticket to Easy Street. Western history is full of flamboyant, infamous Boomers – from trappers to miners, from developers to oilmen – who have descended on an area and, as quickly as they could, extracted every last bit of value from the land. When the resource (pelts, gold, land, oil) was diminished to the point of unprofitability, the Boomers picked up, moved the entire operation to a new area, and repeated the process.

Ranchers, however, are the anti-Boomers. Since the first cattle drives came West, ranchers have relied completely on their specific parcel of land to sustain their operations year after year, generation after generation. Boomers have come and gone time and again, but ranchers have remained steadfast, respectfully stewarding their ranches, ensuring that they are healthy and productive from one year to the next.

Ranchers are Stickers. They are in it for the long haul, and they must ensure that their finite natural resources (land, grass, water) not only produce this current year, but every year for the next 50 years. The idea of extracting every last drop of value out of a ranch with no regard for the future is a recipe for overgrazing, an unsustainable herd, and, ultimately, financial ruin. The Boomer mentality is simply incompatible with ranching.

Yes, ranchers are motivated by profit, but for many ranchers it seems that financial success is just a tool that serves their primary motivation – a desire to continue living and working on land that they love, preserving a ranching heritage that is slowly disappearing. The Sticker description seems to fit perfectly—ranchers have “such a love for place and its life that they want to preserve it and remain in it.”

CCALT plays a vital role in helping Colorado ranchers remain true to their Sticker way of life. Through its conservation easements, CCALT ensures that Colorado’s productive lands will remain true working ranches forever. No matter what type of economic pressure the Boomers dole out, ranchers will be able to continue doing their meaningful work in places they love and respect.

For the non-rancher, it is important to understand that the positive impacts of protecting these working ranches go far beyond agriculture. Conserved ranches benefit families, communities, economies, water resources, and the outdoor-centric lifestyle that makes Colorado so special. Any Coloradan who loves the state’s expansive open spaces and scenic vistas should support CCALT and its critical work protecting ranches and ranching heritage.

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1 Wendell Berry, It All Turns on Affection (2012)