November 2010

Finding environmental support for our ranch community

By Art Goodtimes

QUIVIRA COALITION … Courtney White made a grand transformation in his life, from Sierra Club leader to rancher advocate. His group is bridging the gap between environmentalists and the ranch community who depend on the land (and their knowledge and conservation of it) for their livelihood. I’ve been a speaker at their annual conference before, and found it fascinating and incredibly instructive. This year their topic is “Using Stewardship to Build Soil and Fight Climate Change.” You’ll get a chance to hear leading proponents from around the world speak to the ways to build soil faster, increase local food production, improve the water cycle, reduce atmospheric CO2, and re-think businessas- usual practices … Courtney likes to talk about the “radical center”, or what I call the radical middle.



What would Rumi say
to those blowing themselves up
like starbursts at a Sufi shrine?

“Killing nine & wounding 65”
As though keeping score
was a votive offering to the Beloved

& the black hole of a bomb’s heart
flowering arms & smeared light
was a fearsome explosion of love.

CARBON RANCH… Listen to Courtney here and see why I think what he and his group are doing is so important for all of us in Colorado, where ranching is still a viable industry … “The carbon dioxide (CO2) content of the atmosphere has risen to 390 parts per million (ppm) – 40 ppm above what many scientists consider the level necessary to keep the climate stable for human life. And it is rising at 2 ppm per year, far faster than at any time in the Earth’s climate history. The best possibility of large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere that can start today is plant photosynthesis and related land-based carbon storage activities – such as growing more grass. There are only four natural carbon sinks on Earth: 1) the atmosphere, 2) the oceans, 3) forests and other perennial vegetation, and 4) the soil. The atmospheric sink is overflowing with CO2, and the oceans are fast filling up. Forests have a habit of being cut down or burned up, which releases stored CO2 back to the atmosphere. The potential for CO2 storage in soils is three times greater than the atmosphere. And since two-thirds of the Earth’s ice-free landmass is covered with grasslands and rangelands, the potential impact on the climate could be huge. NASA’s Dr. James Hansen postulates that 50 ppm of CO2 could be pulled down and stored in the soil over the next fifty years — by employing the low technology of green plants, which transform atmospheric carbon into soil organic compounds that provide numerous benefits for humans and ecosystems alike. Many of the tools in the land-management “toolbox” for increased soil carbon storage have been tried and tested by practitioners, agencies and landowners over the past decade or two. Individually, these strategies have been demonstrated to be both practical and profitable. The time has come to bundle these together into one economic and ecological whole, which we call a carbon ranch. The goal of a carbon ranch is to reduce atmospheric CO2 while producing substantial co-benefits for all living things. These include local food production, improved ecosystem services, restored wildlife habitat, rural economic development, and the strengthening of cultural traditions – especially among young people.” … If you want to see how we can move beyond lawsuits into real action to protect the future, attend the annual conference in Albuquerque, Nov. 10-12 … For more info, go to www.quiviracoalition. org.

HEADWATERS … Or if you want to stay closer to home, attend Western State’s 21st annual conference in Gunnison that same weekend -- exploring issues of relevance to the headwaters region of the Southern Rockies, where the rain that falls runs to the Pacific and the Atlantic both. The Four Corners sits on the Pacific side of that divide, but the on-going conversation is one that has increasing relevance for all our watersheds that begin in the high country … The topic this year is “A Resilient Headwaters: Skills for Re-Inhabiting Place” and special guest luminaries include Rick Bass, Dr. Enrique Salmon and Dr. Duane Vandenbusche … For more info, go to headwaters-conference.

SLIMEBALLS… Calling dedicated public servants “slimeballs” because we disagree with a policy or action is, I guess, just part of the declining civility in our political dialogues these days. You can blame it on unscrupulous politicians or gutter-mouth talk show hosts, but we the people are the ones who’ve begun to throw around insults, regardless of their veracity, often merely to register our disfavor … I’ve known Ken Salazar for a couple decades, as have most Coloradoans. I find him a very honorable man who truly has the best interests of American citizens at heart. He is, above all, a man of integrity … Does that mean I agree with him all the time? Of course not. But I respect him, even when I disagree with this policy or that action … That said, do I agree with the use of undercover sting operations? No, I think Utahan Marilyn Boynton of Blanding is right that sting operations can “border on entrapment,” and should be used only in the most heinous of crimes … But selling sacred objects found or dug up from our beautiful lands is still reprehensible behavior. I can perhaps understand collecting and venerating them, and passing them on to family or (better) museums as gifts, or (best) giving them back to the Native people whose ancestors created them. But selling them? That’s the work of slimeballs, in my book.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County, Colo., commissioner.