SRM, TWS bridge gaps in management
Cody – “The mission of the Society for Range Management (SRM) is to provide leadership for the stewards of rangelands based on sound ecological principles,” said the Wyoming Section for SRM President Jessica Crowder. “The reason I bring that up is because I think it meshes perfectly with the Wildlife Society mission and the reason each and every one of us are here today – to learn more about the sound ecological principles and stewardship of lands that support rangelands and wildlife populations.”
From Nov. 15-17, Wyoming SRM met in Cody for their annual meeting in conjunction with the Wyoming’s chapter of The Wildlife Society (TWS). The two groups met together to discuss the areas in which their organizations unite to accomplish their goals.
The conferenced opened with Larry Butler, renowned television host of RFD-TV’s “Out on the Land,” sharing his perspectives about the confluence of wildlife and rangeland management.
“It’s not what the cows, goats, sheep, elk, deer or whatever do. It’s the decisions humans make that results in conflict or complement between range and wildlife,” Butler opened. “And the first step is talking to each other.”
Butler noted that there are differences between range managers and wildlife managers, but he theorized that those differences result based on experiences.
“We have differences, and they may be based on our social background, our educational differences or different experiences that we have,” he said. “Some people also have biases. But TWS and SRM can find common ground.”
He continued, “TWS and SRM use some of the same ideas but use different words to express them. Overall, we use an interdisciplinary approach and natural resources, promoting professional development of our members and exchanging ideas and information.”
Overall, Butler sees far more similarities between wildlife and range management than differences.
“I don’t think there are as many gaps as some people think,” he said. “No two people are going to have the same thoughts or ideas, and no two people are going to do things the same way, but range and wildlife people think a lot alike.”
Butler also noted that he learned early in his career that the job of range and wildlife professionals was to share secrets.
“In my early work experiences, I was down in Texas on the Rio Grande, and there was an old rancher name Ima Jean Thompson. She’s passed on now, but she taught me something important,” Butler said.
He quipped that, as Thompson asked him what he did, he began to talk about his job title with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and she quickly corrected him, saying, “That’s your government job description, but here’s your job – share secrets.”
Thompson explained that, as a natural resources manager, his job was to visit ranches, find out the things they did right and the things they did wrong – and then share them with other ranches.
“When we do this, we don’t mention names. We share secrets, but we don’t dare tell anyone who’s secrets they are,” Butler said.
He also noted that it’s important to tell others that the source is a rancher in the same area or same county.
“Ranchers are a lot more likely to take our advice when they know something worked and that we learned that something from another ranch,” Butler said. “Sharing secrets is very important.”
Butler also said that one very important piece to the puzzle is the plant communities in which wildlife are managed.
“It isn’t about our selected animals, whether they are livestock or wildlife,” he explained. “It’s the plant communities we have to concern ourselves with first and foremost. Whatever our use it – whether that’s elk range or cattle range – it depends on the plan community there.”
Range managers can work with wildlife managers to determine the soil types and ecological sites to make decisions based on habitat.
“I don’t care how much we love cows, sheep or a certain wildlife species, they have to have a place to live, and they have to have water and shelter,” Butler commented. “It’s really about that habitat.”
The arena where range professionals add value is knowing how to make changes in habitats, whereas wildlife managers can provide insight on what species are preferred by the desired species of wildlife.
“We can work together to get it right between the two of us,” Butler said.
Advice from Leopold
“I can talk about these things,” he said, “but I’m just Larry. Let’s be reminded of what Aldo Leopold understood.”
Leopold cited five things that destroy wildlife habitat – the cow, the plow, the ax, the fire and the gun.
“The cow destroys habitat through overstock or overgrazing of domestic livestock species, whatever the species is,” Butler explained. “The plow – or any kind of implement – can cause erosion.”
The ax results in habitat destruction resulted in forest removal, through huge tracts of land that are altered, and finally the gun can result in degradation through overhunting.
“I’d say we can throw in a sixth thing, and that’s government policy,” Butler said, “but overall, human decisions are the big tool that we need to use.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.