Rancher seeks ways to keep green space, fix carbon problems
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
Courtney White sees ranching as the best potential solution for increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
His latest project comes after successes in other community-bulding ventures.A former archaeologist, he was once an active card-carrying member of the Sierra Club. In 1997, he launched the nonprofit Quivira Coalition to promote land health and build bridges among ranchers, conservationists, public land managers and scientists.
Today, he is a dues-paying member of the New Mexico Cattlegrowers' Association, selling his grass-fed beef to local markets.
"We need ranches because we need the open space they provide, we need their locally grown food, and we need the good stewardship they can provide," he told attendees at the Congress on Western Rangelands symposium in Boise last week.
He said the coalition's collaborative efforts in land and watershed restoration have enjoyed many successes over the years. And the melding of those successes has led White to a new project -- the carbon ranch. The goal is to find out if livestock production can be managed in a way that is carbon-negative and profitable.
While much of the world is focused on climate change and reducing carbon emissions, White believes the world will need more ranches .
A recent report from Worldwatch, Mitigating Climate Change Through Food and Land Use, led White to the reasoning that ranchers can attain those goals through holistic ranching.
The report, which notes "tremendous opportunity" in the area of carbon reduction in the land-use arena, states "the only possibility of large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is through plant photosynthesis and other land-based carbon sequestration activities."
Strategies include enriching soil carbon, farming with perennials, employing climate-friendly livestock practices, conserving natural habitat, restoring degraded watersheds and rangelands and producing local food.
Holistic ranching is fundamentally about land health, collaboration and innovation, he said.
"If we can integrate all these things together in a way that's profitable, we can help ranch families stay in business," he said.
Quivira Coalition: www.quiviracoalition.org
Worldwatch Institute: www.worldwatch.org