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Raising Cattle on the Range in the 21st Century
Cattle ranching in the Southwest has always been a risky proposition. Here, ranchers have acres to the cow, not cows to the acre—the land is so arid and dry, that they’ll have one cow for every 40-50 acres, which means a vast amount of time spent on horseback, traversing one’s land to manage your cattle, move them to a new stretch of grass. It also means that a lot of time and energy is spent thinking about rain. And, in the last 50 years or so, a new challenge has been added to the mix: development.
Foes Become Friends on the Range
Historically, in the American West, there is little love lost between ranchers and environmentalists—and that’s actually understating the dynamic. Often, there’s just straight deadlock; no conversation whatsoever, with environmentalists advocating for anti-grazing policies, and ranchers resenting the environmental community meddling in what’s often a generations-old family practice of cattle raising. But, thanks to a cowboy poet, a fire that sparked at just the right moment, and a lot of westerners—ranchers, environmentalists and scientists alike—stepping way out of their comfort zone, there’s a stretch of land that tells a very different story. In these several hundred-thousand acres on a grassy and mountainous terrain containing both pine forests and desert scrub, a model has been forged for how enemies can become cooperating neighbors.
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