Subscriptions click here for 20% off! E-Mail:

Git Home!



Direct marketing of environmental value will enable people to spend their money on green and growing grass instead of on litigation,
on endangered species instead of political campaigns,
on collaboration and community instead of confrontation and conflict, and it will do so in a way leveraged by the creativity and hard work of some of our society’s most effective land stewards.

By Dan Dagget
A lot of ranchers are looking for new ways to market environmental stewardship. Many of them already do so in a variety of ways. They piggyback it onto beef sales by warranting that their beef is produced in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.They market the additional wildlife that their stewardship produces to wildlife watchers, photographers, and to hunters where state laws permit.

Some market the open space their ranches produce by selling conservation easements or trophy homesites placed so they can continue to graze cattle on the main part of the ranch. A growing number of ranchers have even begun to seek grants to fund management projects directed at making the land healthier or at creating some specific environmental value such as habitat for an endangered species.

In spite of all this creative marketing the majority of instances in which rural stewards have created environmental value–including just keeping the ranch in ranching and out of development–their efforts have been funded partially or wholly by money earned from the production of agricultural commodities whose prices are trending down. Some ranchers have been able to fund their stewardship by marketing their beef or other products as environmentally friendly; however, in a price-driven marketplace, these niche markets seem to be proving too limited to support the full scope of the demand for environmental restoration and sustainable stewardship. One measure of this shortfall is the fact that agricultural land in the West, including ranch land, is being converted to development at a rate that has been estimated at an acre a minute.

Ranchers thus find themselves in the extremely odd situation of being able to produce a type of value most in demand by contemporary society–environmental value–but going out of business because there’s no effective way to market that value.
EcoResults, sponsored on this project by Teva Sandals, teamed up with the Quivira Coalition, Terry Wheeler’s Arizona Ranch Management, and rancher Aparcio Gurulé whose cows turned this eroding copper mine near Cuba, N.M. into a green, growing grassland. FROM TOP: What the site looked like before the project; after the project; and the instruments of change. © Courtney White, Quivira Coalition

This is beginning to change. The environmentally concerned public has realized that ranchers can produce one product that they want very badly. That product is open space. And they have come up with a means to support the ranchers willing to agree to keep their lands in open space. That means of support, of course, is conservation easements. Whatever you think of conservation easements, they form an example of a direct production and consumption relationship between ranching and the environmentally concerned public.

Having realized that ranchers produce open space a few of us on the environmental side are becoming aware of the fact that they produce other kinds of environmental value. And while it’s true that some of them do it better than others, it’s also true that, in some cases, ranchers can produce certain kinds of environmental results more effectively than anyone else.

The kind of environmental value I’m talking about here is the kind that Arizona rancher Terry Wheeler produces when he transforms piles of mine tailings and even overgrazed rangelands in locations around the Southwest into functioning grasslands. Wheeler uses cattle to recreate the evolved interdependency between grazing animals, grasses and soil.

Another example is provided by Joe Austin, who, with the help of hired hands, friends and volunteers, tosses rocks into eroded gullies on his Turkey Creek Ranch in southeastern Arizona creating thousands of water-slowing damlets behind which wetland minihabitats now support endangered Yaqui chubs, rare longfin daces and Sonoran mud turtles.

And David Ogilvie, in southwestern New Mexico, restored the riparian forest along the Gila River that flows through his ranch to such a state of health that it now supports the largest known population of an endangered bird, the southwestern willow flycatcher. There are plenty of other examples of this, many of which have been profiled in this magazine.

Taking photographs of this sort of successful environmental stewardship around the West for the last 10 years and showing them to audiences that have ranged from groups of activist vegetarians to garden clubs to an international conference on the environment has convinced me that there is a huge demand for this kind of stewardship.

“These ranchers should be commended,” a dedicated vegetarian said at one presentation. “How can I help?” That person is never going to buy a steak, nor shoot an elk. Most likely they will never make it to a ranch to go birdwatching. But they were willing to help if there was a means for them to do so.

One way to provide that means is for ranchers to start marketing their stewardship directly to the public by offering to deliver a specific result for a fair reward. This idea is based on the simple principle that when we want just about anything, the most effective way to get it is to reward someone for producing it. We use this incentive-based approach to get beans, computers, cars, gardening services, mail delivery; why not healthy rangelands?

The biggest problem with this approach is delivery. It’s pretty easy to deliver a hamburger, and pretty easy for the customer to tell that he or she has got what she paid for. But how do you deliver a healthy watershed? The internet provides a means to do this in a way that has never been possible before. That, it seems to me, provides the last piece to the puzzle I described above. There are people demanding healthy rangelands, and ranchers who are able to supply them. With the internet providing a delivery system, we have all the components of a marketplace.

With this means to increase the incentive for rural stewards to direct a greater portion of their efforts to creating environmental value, we have the means to create healthier ecosystems and healthier rural communities throughout the West.

Dan Dagget is making his ideas a reality at an internet website named The not-for-profit corporation received its first grant from The Collective Heritage Institute in Santa Fe, signed up its first sponsor (Teva Sports Sandals), and added a 1998 Emmy-award winning director–Susan Green–to a team that already includes Dagget, Pulitzer-prize nominated author of "Beyond the Rangeland Conflict, Toward a West that Works,” Norm Lowe, award-winning range scientist, and Gail Lowe, Flagstaff CPA. For more information on EcoResults, go to <>.

Table of Contents | Git Home!

To Subscribe: Please click here or call 1-800-RANGE-4-U for a special web price

Copyright © 1998-2005 RANGE magazine

For problems or questions regarding this site, please contact Dolphin Enterprises.

last page update: 04.03.05