In 2009, start- up funding from the Packard Foundation helped our Navajo colleagues create Hasbídító, a Navajo-run New Mexico non-profit conservation organization dedicated to building economic and ecological resilience in the region. Hasbídító is now up and running in full force. They actively serve the Navajo Chapters of Ojo Encino, Torreon and Counselor, and their mission is to "create sustainable opportunities for their people through projects that utilize the communities' talents, skills and knowledge." Their ultimate goal is to build capacity for the sake of healthier landscapes and healthy people.
The Ojo Encino, Torreon and Counselor Chapters of the Navajo Nation sit on the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, 30 miles west of Cuba, New Mexico, encompassing more than 276,000 acres. Our work in this tri-Chapter region is focused around building on traditional resilience strategies to climate change by restoring hózho--a Navajo word that means "walking in beauty" or living in a manner that strives to create and maintain balance, harmony, beauty and order. In essence, it's about rediscovering a land ethic, and it requires building local capacity and testing strategies that make land-based activities economically viable and resilient in the face of climate change.
In the last six years, the Quivira Coalition has been actively working with the communities of Ojo Encino, Torreon and Counselor to build a resilient bio-cultural system that can be replicated by other communities on the Colorado Plateau as a model of how to confront a changing climate. The principal strategy that has emerged from our work involves engaging new and diverse conservation constituencies, and focusing our efforts on ecologically significant elements of the larger landscape.
In 2008, The Christensen Fund awarded the Quivira Coalition a grant in the amount of $100,000 to implement a project entitled "The Tribal New Ranch Network." The goal of the two-year grant was to assist tribal communities in expanding their efforts to build economic and ecological resilience, principally by helping them: (1) develop the capacity to plan and implement ecological restoration projects that use local materials and labor; (2) to plan and implement managed grazing of livestock, and (3) to begin a proactive management program for feral horses.
The overwhelming success of the endeavor, and financial support from the Christensen Fund, made it possible for the Quivira Coalition to apply for a follow-up grant from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation in 2009. The combined funding from both foundations enabled us to expand the bio-cultural resilience-building program. Specific projects funded under the first Packard grant (2009-2010) entailed restoring abandoned floodwater farm fields for the purpose of jump-starting a local food system, and simultaneously healing vital components (i.e. alluvial fans) of an otherwise degraded landscape. These activities dove-tailed, but did not overlap, with the objectives set forth in the 2008-2010 Christensen Fund grant. The Christensen Fund was interested in addressing the implications of, and solutions to, feral horses on a Native landscape, while Packard was interested in tackling land restoration and building a local food system. We considered ourselves very fortunate to have found two sources of funding that were perfectly complementary to each other, without being redundant.
The Packard Foundation's renewed support for work in the tri-Chapter area over the next three years (2010-2013) further complements and extends the effect of past sup- port from The Christensen Fund, and will simultaneously match our collective effort going forward to address all of the elements necessary for creating a comprehensive climate change adaptation strategy for Native communities on the southern Colorado plateau.
Beginning in the fall of 2010, and projecting out over the next two years, we intend to: (1) identify and restore areas of high ecological potential on the south Colorado Plateau; (2) develop the capacity of Hasbídító as an emerging Navajo-run community 501(c)(3) organization that is capable of planning and implementing projects that build resilience on the Colorado Plateau; (3) engage Navajo youth and create new avenues through which the next generation of land stewards can receive hands-on mentor- ship in land health restoration techniques; (4) establish a formal Capacity Building program area within the Quivira Coalition, through which we can scale up our efforts to build resilience in other under-served communities on the Colorado Plateau; (5) restore traditional agricultural and stewardship traditions that will serve as building blocks in a re-emerging local food system; and (6) gain a better understanding of how to integrate the traditions of Native American dryland agriculture with modern land management practices through research.