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5 Things We are Grateful for this Thanksgiving

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Photo credit: Alexis Bonogofsky

To celebrate this week’s holiday, we are taking a break to reflect on all we have to be thankful for.

At Western Landowners Alliance we provide a voice for wise stewardship on all kinds of tough issues, from stream health and water rights, to climate change, to endangered species, to conflicts between livestock and large carnivores. Which can make it can feel pretty bleak out there sometimes.

Yet, landowners and managers have a lot to be thankful for in the West. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’re taking a moment to express our gratitude to some of the things that make our lives as land stewards so rewarding.

Photo credit: SW Krull Imaging

Growing support for connected migration corridors

Landowners and land managers provide valuable habitat and transportation routes to migrating wildlife species. Each day we get the opportunity to work with landowners, state agencies, federal agencies, foundations, and partner organizations throughout the West to to sustain migration corridors and support landowners continued efforts to implement conservation strategies. Since migrating wildlife don’t recognize state lines, management needs to transcend them, and so we count on those donors and policymakers who understand that. In Wyoming, the Governor’s Migration Corridor Advisory Council is a beacon of science-based collaboration on this issue. In Colorado and New Mexico, donors supported important transboundary work in the Upper Rio Grande watershed.

Photo credit: Candace Weeda

An important change to a major program

The 2018 Farm Bill expanded the popular Conservation Reserve Program to allow the grasslands CRP to be used to support sustainable rangeland practices with the goal of further improving wildlife habitat. We are grateful for congressional leadership in making this critical change a reality, and for the partners in our coalition that helped members of congress see how valuable this small change could be for keeping the character and habitats of the West intact.

Photo credit: Marco Secchi

Increasing interagency dialogue in the Northern Rockies

Amplifying rancher voices in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem led to Interior Secretary Bernhardt’s October visit to Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, and resulted in ongoing interagency dialog about how to reduce conflicts between livestock and grizzly bears. Dedicated public agency personnel in the region are showing an increasing openness to new ways of working collaboratively with landowners. Media coverage of this fraught issue has become more balanced and nuanced, helping citizens better understand the challenge of working wild.

Photo credit: Adam Schallau

New Mexicans collaborating to secure our natural heritage

In 2019 a 20+ organization coalition came together to develop and advocate for a state-managed trust fund intended to sustain and conserve working lands, improve water security, enhance wildlife and fisheries habitats, and restore watersheds across large landscapes. We appreciate the endeavor of others on an effort that will benefit agriculturalists, conservationists, recreationists and New Mexico’s citizens for generations. 

Photo credit: Alexis Bonogofsky

Everyday land stewards

Those who live on and steward the lands that provide open space and healthy wildlife while producing the fiber in the clothes we wear and the buildings we live in, not to mention the food we eat are an amazing gift. Landowners provide community leadership, share their stewardship knowledge with their neighbors, and quietly demonstrate that there is more common ground between westerners than the mainstream narrative depicts. Our members and supporters understand and advocate for the important role of thriving working lands as a key part of our collective effort to protect the western landscapes we all love.

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Birds Got no Beef with Burger

Opening the pickup door and stepping out onto native grass, the sun begins to rise amidst the sound of the dawn chorus. I listen to the melodic tinkling of a Baird’s sparrow (my favorite song, and also set as my morning phone alarm); the downward whirl of the Sprague’s pipit (my ring tone); the buzz of the Brewer’s sparrows, the joyful couplets of the McCown’s longspur. The chestnut-collared longspurs are chasing each other in play, or fight.

Tenacity + Solidarity + Creativity

One cold, dark, November night, I was lost somewhere outside the small town of Walden, CO, searching for a bison ranch. I had taken time off from my marketing job at Whole Foods Market to help during the outfit’s annual bison roundup. With no cell service, I was becoming increasingly concerned about finding the ranch. Self-doubt kicked in. When I finally had service I called my husband. “Is this normal?! For a 30-some year old woman to be spending her free time showing up at some ranch not knowing where she is going to sleep, what she is going to eat, to learn about a completely new profession?!” My husband replied, “No, but do it anyway.”

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