In 1997 two conservationists and a rancher who believed that ecologically sensitive ranch management and economically robust ranches could be compatible, came together to create the Quivira Coalition.

In 1997 two conservationists and a rancher who believed that a ranch that supported wildlife and a healthy ecosystem could also support a viable ranch business, came together to create the Quivira Coalition. The word “quivira” comes from the term on old Spanish maps for the uncharted territory. In 2003, twenty ranchers, environmentalists, and scientists met for forty-eight hours to figure out a way to take back the American West from the decades of divisiveness and acrimony that now truly jeopardizes much of what we all love and value. But we also met to take the West forward, to restore ecological, social and political health to a landscape that deserves it and so desperately needs it.

We met, in other words, to find a way to make ourselves worthy of the land we all love.

Now in its third decade, Quivira is a non-profit organization based in Santa Fe, New Mexico dedicated to building economic and ecological resilience on western working landscapes.

Our projects include: an annual conference, an agrarian ranch apprenticeship program, riparian and uplands demonstration restoration projects in New Mexico, capacity-building collaboration with the Ojo Encino Chapter of the Navajo Nation, a journal called Resilience, and the promotion of the idea of grasslands restoration as the most effective, efficient, and immediately viable path to remedy the devastating impacts of global warming.

Our work aims to (1) improve land health; (2) share knowledge and innovation; (3) build local capacity; and (4) strengthen diverse relationships.

In 1997, our 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. We called this approach the New Ranch and described it as a movement rooted in 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 idea of the New Ranch has since evolved and become the Carbon Ranch Initiative.

From 1997 to present, at least one million acres of rangeland, fifty linear miles of riparian drainages and 20,000 people have directly benefited from the Quivira Coalition’s collaborative efforts. We have organized hundreds of educational events on topics as diverse as drought management, riparian restoration, harvesting water from ranch roads, conservation easements, reading the landscape, ecological and photo monitoring, water harvesting, low-stress livestock handling, grassbanks and grassfed beef, agricultural apprenticeship, and more. We have published newsletters, journals, bulletins, field guides and books. And lastly, we managed the innovative Valle Grande Grassbank, located near Santa Fe, eventually becoming producers of local, grassfed beef ourselves.

But most importantly, Quivira has sparked ideas across the West that grew over time into small bonfires of change. Through our work, ranchers have adopted conservation practices, environmentalists have come to value ranching, agencies are more open to innovation, scientists are more involved, and the public more supportive of all of the above.

We know that the 21st century has inaugurated a new era marked by undeniable climate change. At Quivira, we believe ecological and economic resilience of communities and landscapes are necessary to address the challenges ahead. The dictionary defines resilience as “the ability to recover from misfortune or change.” In ecology, this refers to the capacity of plant and animal populations to adapt to and continue to thrive in the face of disruption and degradation caused by fire, flood, drought, insect infestation, and other disturbances. Resilience also describes a community’s ability to adopt new behaviors of sustenance to accommodate to shifting economic conditions and steady rise in temperatures.

In 2005, the United Nations published its Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which said that global ecosystem services are in decline including

  • declining provision of food, fresh water, wood, fiber, fuel, and biodiversity
  • declining regulations controlling climate health, flood, pest and disease
  • declining nutrient cycling, soil stability, biotic integrity, watershed function, and photosynthesis; and
  • declining spiritual, educational, recreational, and aesthetic experiences

In response to this report, and the experience of friends and neighbors on the land, in 2007 the Quivira Coalition adopted a new mission statement: to build resilience on western landscapes by fostering ecological, economic and social health through education, innovation, collaboration, and progressive public and private land stewardship.