Jargon Therapy: Landscape Conversations

A Montana landowner and a federal biologist are standing side by side, and surprisingly, there’s no gun slinging.  In fact, just the opposite is taking place.

These two individuals are at the State Wildlife Conference and they’re talking about the habitat projects they’ve accomplished and their plans for future work together.

Landowners often live intimately with wildlife and understand its critical conservation needs. A habitat project is taking place to remove conifers on private land to promote better grazing and remove perches for raptors that prey on sage grouse near Cody, Wyo.

Such camaraderie is rare between these two very different types of natural resource managers. Though it may appear menial, this kind of conversation produces the best results for flora and fauna.

My previous blog post was about another conference called Power Shift. The demographics of both Power Shift and this wildlife conference were dominated by college students who are gung-ho about doing good for the natural world.

The similarities ended there.

Power Shift was a gathering of young environmentalists for training in grassroots activism. The talk was all about taking action by working locally, thinking globally, lobbying and marching to your senator’s offices.

At the state wildlife conference, talk was all about conversations. These simple conversations between those who live off the land—ranchers and farmers—and people who study the land—scientists—are considered the foundation for environmental change. Students attending heard from both parties about how basiccoffee talk kindles the fire for large, landscape-sized conversation about conservation.

Leo Barthelmess is a rancher in Eastern Montana. He stood with Brian Martin from the Nature Conservancy. Together they discussed their early, uneasy conversations about potential habitat work on Barthelmess’ land. It took years, but the two developed land management plans that benefited both cattle and threatened wildlife species like sage grouse and black-tailed prairie dogs.

Landowners, scientists and environmentalists are called up to preserve natural resources. Though the ways in which they choose to protect all things green and furry differ drastically.

These conferences show that while environmental studies students study action by way of lobbying and litigation, the wildlife biology students study communication by way of enacting on-the-ground projects.

You decide who makes the greatest ecological difference with two very different forms of thinking.  Give us your comments.