Quivira is the mythical name the Spanish used to designate “unknown territory” on the colonial maps of the Southwest in the 1600s. In 1997, the Quivira Coalition’s founders, two conservationists and a rancher, thought it appropriate to use, as they were heading into unexplored land by trying to get ranchers and environmentalists to talk and work together. The Quivira Coalition today is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit organization dedicated to building economic and ecological resilience in western working landscapes. The group does so via four broad initiatives: improving land health; sharing knowledge and innovation; building local capacity, and strengthening diverse relationships.
Quivira’s projects include: an annual conference, a ranch apprenticeship program, a long-running riparian restoration effort in northern New Mexico on behalf of the Río Grande cutthroat trout, a capacity-building collaboration with the Ojo Encino Chapter of the Navajo Nation, various outreach activities, and the promotion of the idea of a carbon ranch, which aims to mitigate climate change through food and land stewardship.
In 1997, Quivira’s goal was to expand an emerging “radical center” among ranchers, conservationists, scientists and public land managers by focusing on progressive cattle management, collaboration, riparian and upland restoration and improved land health. The original mission was “to demonstrate that ecologically sensitive ranch management and economically robust ranches can be compatible.” Quivira called this approach “The New Ranch” and described it as a movement that “operates on the principle that the natural processes that sustain wildlife habitat, biological diversity and functioning watersheds are the same processes that make land productive for livestock.” The principles of The New Ranch were disseminated through workshops, lectures, publications, grants, consultations, collaborative land and water demonstration projects, a journal, the New Ranch Network, a small loan program and an annual conference.
From 1997 to the present, at least one million acres of rangeland, 30 linear miles of riparian drainages and 15,000 people have directly benefited from the Quivira’s collaborative efforts. Quivira has also organized over 100 educational events on topics as diverse as drought management, riparian restoration, fixing ranch roads, conservation easements, reading the landscape, monitoring, water harvesting, low-stress livestock handling, grassbanks and grassfed beef; published numerous newsletters, Journals, bulletins, field guides, and books, including a rangeland health monitoring protocol. Its most recent publication is a 258-page manual on riparian restoration, Let the Water Do the Work,published in October, 2009.
More importantly, the Quivira Coalition lit sparks across the West that have grown over time into small bonfires of change. Its work has convinced ranchers to adopt conservation practices, environmentalists to value ranching, agencies to be more open to innovations, scientists to get more involved, and the public to support all of the above.
One response to the multiple challenges of the 21st century is to increase ecological and economic resilience of communities and landscapes. The dictionary defines resilience as “the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” In ecology, it refers to the capacity of plant and animal populations to handle disruption and degradation caused by fire, flood, drought, insect infestation or other disturbance. Resilience also describes a community’s ability to adjust to change, such as shifting economic conditions, or a steady rise in temperatures.
To help address these concerns, in the fall of 2007 the Quivira Coalition Board adopted a new mission statement: to build resilience by fostering ecological, economic and social health on western landscapes through education, innovation, collaboration and progressive public and private land stewardship.