So where do I fit in? My journey from living on the land to immersing myself into the land started after attending a three day seminar. Allen Savory a gentleman from Zimbabwe, Africa was offering up a new way to manage a ranch. The year was 1991. My rebirth as a different kind of a ranch manager came on the last day of Mr. Savory’s Holistic Resource Management presentation when he set forth a new way to make a decision. He said “when you make a decision assume that the decision you are about to make is wrong, for if you assume that it is right you will never change it". He then taught me using the Holistic model how to prove that a particular decision is right or wrong by examining what the outcome might be. Are things better? Has the circle of life been kept intact because of my action? How is my quality of life? The hard part comes when a practice or idea can’t pass muster any longer and it must be discarded to be replaced by some new way of doing things can be pretty scary.
This new doctrine jolted me to my core because I knew that the things I was doing made little sense but I didn’t know how to fix them. Now I had permission to look at all facets of my management practices and then let my imagination run wild in a search for better ways of doing things. Like encouraging more kinds of recreation as they passed my holistic goals with flying colors. I didn’t realize it at the time but this is when I started my journey to living in the land and not just on it. He also said “that when you decide to leave the traditional ways to manage land you will become an annoyance to many, by rocking the boat of tradition, in your industry”
Of the four building blocks of an ecosystem (succession, water cycle, mineral cycle, energy flow ) the one I want to address today is the “water cycle”. For here the results of increasing water availability is almost immediate as all sorts of critters appear at each new water point.
With the passage of a proposition passed by the California electorate in the 1990s to save the Mountain Lion making him off limits to hunt. Many of us in the Ranching and Hunting community predicted that the Blacktail Deer population would go in the tank as lion numbers increased and it happened as I personally saw about a 75% decline in the ranch deer population over the following twenty or so years. It looked like there would be no more Blacktail deer and then who would be next on the mountain lions list of what shall I dine on tonight?
Several years ago I had one of those Holistic moments when all kinds of ideas entered my mind and after letting them rummage around awhile out comes the answer to solve the mountain lion problem. All life needs three things FOOD WATER AND COVER! Supposing I made more water available by building more stock ponds, installing more water troughs and vastly improving the system to deliver this new water. Looking back just five years with I hope an impartial eye. The results are plain to see that when good drinking water is made available (for all) the results are more of everything. My deer population has been growing steadily each year even though the mountain lion population is also increasing. I attribute this increase in both deer and lion population to the fact that as you add more places to get a drink the lion can’t cover them all so the survival rate goes up and by leaving plenty of grass at all times, even after my cattle graze a pasture, the ground nesting birds are now more prevalent.
I’m not worried anymore about the Mountain Lion as I believe that there is now a symbiotic relationship between the grazing population and this necessary predator. As I strive to keep an abundance of feed, water and cover on the land then “the balance of nature” will prevail and I will be living in the land.