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(What follows is a sidebar to "Unnecessary Conflict" by Chance Gowan.)

Not a rehash of Gunflight at the OK Corral.
© Chance Gowan (reprinted from RANGE magazine, Carson City, Nevada)

In the fall of 1996, a group of ranchers from the Morgan Creek Grazing Association assembled to meet with representatives from various federal, state and private agencies. A very difficult and frustrating grazing season had just been completed and nobody was happy. Everyone stood in a circle and the mood was tense as they prepared for a modern-day version of "Gunfight at the OK Corral."
     Then something miraculous happened; instead of a fight, everyone agreed to try something called "Collaborative Stewardship." With the help of a top-notch facilitator from Idaho Round Table, we formed a team and assented to work together to develop common goals and objectives that would allow the ranchers to optimize their grazing while providing better management of the riparian communities. Over the course of the winter a plan evolved and grazing strategies were altered, but what really changed was the manner in which the adjustments were developed.
     We needed to find a way for the ranchers to achieve more complete use of their allotment while minimizing impacts to the riparian communities. In a bold and progressive move, the Forest Service agreed to allow the team to function independently and make their own decisions in a collaborative manner.
     We decided on a grazing strategy that emphasized handling the stock as a cohesive herd. To facilitate this, we broke the allotment down into numerous small paddocks and we identified reasonable, attainable criteria for forage utilization and streambank disturbance. If problems developed, the herd would only have to be moved to the next paddock instead of off the allotment. This ensured a more complete grazing season while allowing greatly improved control over riparian "hot spots."
     The 1997 grazing season was a huge success. The ranchers enjoyed a full grazing season for the first time in more than a decade and the riparian communities looked better than anybody could remember. Sure, we made plenty of mistakes and we had a few wrecks, but they were our mistakes and our wrecks. When problems developed we all stuck together. Nobody pointed fingers and nobody panicked.
      This winter we’ll work together to fix some of last year’s mistakes. But we’ll do it with a new enthusiasm. We all can see that there is a long-term future in this. The grazing systems may evolve, but the ranchers now feel confident they’ll be using the allotment and we’ll all be working and riding together for years to come. Most amazing of all is that we’re actually having fun together because we took the time to discover that we share a sense of community, with common goals and concerns.

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