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The Quivira Coalition has helped old enemies - environmentalists and ranchers - reap harmony on divisive ecological issues such as land use and maintenance
Jan. 18 and 19 will go down in the books as the dates when the environmental movement reached a fork in the road.
The Quivira Coalition for five years has charted a new path for environmental moderates and anyone else disturbed by the decades-old warfare between environmentalists and ranchers.
At Quivira's first conference, participants could see before their eyes the group's evolution from a fringe element to a movement.
Even after the Santa Fe group began turning people away, more than 300 participants packed a hotel ballroom. Speakers were passionate and, at times, emotional. During breaks, their listeners filled hallways with animated conversation. Nobody, it seemed, was unmoved.
"We've had permission to pour our hearts out here," said Santa Fe mediator Merle Lefkoff. "Everyone wants the health of the land. One of the things that's happening here is we're beginning to break the impasse."
Calling itself the "radical center," Quivira argues that good ecology, good ranching and good business go together. Its 850 members, like the conference, are about one-third ranchers, one-third government land agency staff and one-third environmentalists.
At this conference, they came together to celebrate, explain and promote the New Ranch.
New Ranchers manage holistically for healthy range and ecosystems, graze herds for shorter periods on a parcel and give it more rest, and fence cows out of riparian areas or graze streamsides only in the dormant season.
"What the New Ranch is really about is making new decisions. It involves the whole ecosystem and the people in it," said Roger Bowe of the Rafter F Ranch in San Jon.
It says something that after two days, photos of denuded stream sides transformed into lush riparian areas had become almost old hat.
"While you're having it, it's really hard to tell the difference between a vision and a hallucination."