I just published a trip report of my early morning jaunt up Culebra Peak, the only privately owned 14er in the country and the high point of the spectacular 83,000-acre Cielo Vista Ranch. Click over to the Mirr Ranch Group blog to read all about it!

Climbing Cielo Vista’s 14,047-foot Culebra Peak

Looking for some mountain-inspired cinematic magic??  Then head over the the Mountain Khakis blog for my recent article “Must-See Documentaries for the Mountain Life.”  While you’re there, pick up some new pants, shorts, or shirts!  And thanks again to Mountain Khakis for all their help getting the podcast up and running!

Must-See Documentaries for the Mountain Life

Mountain Khakis

 

 

Jim Howell

Jim Howell

Jim Howell is the CEO of Grasslands LLC, which is the land management arm of the Savory Institute, an organization that Jim co-founded.  Both Grasslands and Savory focus on conserving and restoring the world’s grasslands through what they call “Holistic Management.” We discuss the details of Holistic Managment in the interview, but the basic idea is that the world’s grasses evolved to be grazed, and they need to be grazed in a natural manner to be healthy and resilient.

Jim and his team use livestock to mimic natural grazing patterns from hundreds of thousands of years ago, long before the world’s grasslands were covered with people, fences, houses, and cities.  Savory and Grasslands’ results speak for themselves—after just a few years of holistic managment, their ranches are measurably healthier, more productive, more biodiverse, and more financially successful.

Even if you have absolutely no interest in grazing or ranches, you still need to listen to this interview, because the work Jim and his team are doing has a positive effect on land, people, plants, animals, and communities all around the world.  Anyone who considers themselves to be conservation-minded and loves the outdoors needs to understand Jim’s work. I have no doubt that you’ll gain a new appreciation for the role that livestock needs to play in conserving grasslands around the world.  Even if you’re a vegan living in New York City, you’ll gain some valuable insights from Jim’s point of view.

Jim is also an experienced world traveler, an avid reader, and an author, having written one of the best books I’ve read on land and conservation in the West and beyond: For the Love of Land: Global Case Studies of Grazing in Nature’s Image.  And on top of all of that, he finds the time to run ultra-marathons and has completed some of the most challenging 50-mile trail races in Colorado.

Between Jim’s professional and personal interests, we had a lot to discuss.  It was a fun conversation filled with valuable information, so I hope you enjoy.

Jim ranching

Jim and his team hard at work on the Cinch Buckle Ranch, near Broadus, MT


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Episode Notes

Topics Covered

4:05 – How Jim describes his work
5:45 – How Grasslands’ Holistic Management differs from other ranch management practices
8:00 – Why are grasslands important?
11:00 – The natural history of grass
14:30 – Importance of grazing animals’ grazing behavior
17:30 – History of grass and animal relationships in the U.S.
18:40 – How modern commercial grazing differs from natural grazing patterns
22:00 – Comparing the health of grazed land versus National Park land where grazing is prohibited
26:15 – How grazing leads to more healthy soil and grasslands
27:50 – Common mistakes that conservationists make when evaluating grassland health
29:15 – Methods and results of measuring grassland health
31:15 – Specific methods for holistic grazing
35:30 – Length of time to truly understand a ranch’s grazing potential and needs
37:00 – Challenges related to the human component of ranching
40:30 – What are common objections to holistic grazing?
41:40 – The intellectual challenges of holistic grazing
43:50 – The economic benefits of holistic grazing with specific examples
48:20 – Jim’s unconventional path to ranching
52:20 – Jim discovers Savory’s work
55:15 – Jim’s travels and work on ranches around the world
57:40 – Lessons learned from traveling and working abroad
1:00:10 – How Jim started running ultra-marathons
1:02:50 – How humans evolved to run long distances
1:04:55 – Advice for people who want to run ultras
1:09:15 – Jim’s favorite books
1:12:50 – Favorite documentary
1:13:45 – Jim’s favorite place in the West
1:14:55 – Jim’s request of the listeners
1:17:30 – Grasslands and Savory contact information

Information Referenced

Follow the link below to the Mirr Ranch Group blog for updates on all the happenings in “Colorado’s Last Great Ski Town”– Crested Butte, Colorado.  With another excellent ski season in the books, the resort is hard at work preparing for what is sure to be another fun summer in one of my favorite towns in the West!

Changing Seasons in Crested Butte, Colorado

 

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!


Click Here to Download on iTunes

Click Here to Download on Stitcher


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)

LandThink.com just republished last week’s conservation easement article.  I always appreciate LandThink’s commitment to spreading high-quality, interesting land-related content.  I encourage anyone working in land-related industries to submit articles for publication.  The more knowledgeable professionals to contribute, the more valuable and useful the site becomes!

LandThink: Conservation Easements – Six Common Misconceptions

 

That’s turn-key, not turkey.

Anyway, there’s a lot to be said for buying a ranch that is in great shape and can be enjoyed immediately without a lot of extra cost and backbreaking labor.  My new post on the Mirr Ranch Group blog explains:

The Appeal of a Turnkey Ranch

Flat-Rock-Ranch-pond

Flat Rock Ranch – a perfect example of a turnkey ranch property.

 

It seems to make perfect sense that a hillside of dead timber would be more susceptible to wildfires than a hillside covered with healthy, green trees, right?  WRONG!  Contrary to popular opinion, there’s a growing consensus among scientists that a forest of dead, beetle-killed trees is no more flammable than a healthy, thriving forest.  To learn more, read my newest article on LandThink.com:

The Unexpected Relationship Between Bark Beetles and Wildfires