"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." -Aldo Leopold, Foreward to Sand County Almanac.
Those lines of text, Bill Sproul said, opened his eyes to a whole new world: A new way of thinking, a new way of ranching, and a new approach to conservation.
The Kansas rancher said he always thought he cared about conservation. But, "I also thought everything revolved around my ranch: my land, my fence, my place. I didn't understand this landscape-scale, wildlife, big picture land ethic."
He called it "commodity-based conservation."
"If you wanted me to do a conservation practice, that meant you wanted to do a cost-share with me," Sproul said on a recent Partners for Conservation webinar. "I was happy to take your money to do the thing, but when you quit giving me money, I quit doing the thing. Then I'd wait until the next round of money to do it again."
In those years, he said, conservation was about asking, "What's in it for me?"
KEEP READING >>> Originally published in the July 2020 Ranchers Stewardship Alliance newsletter. Please subscribe and share the newsletter for more updates from this northern Montana, rancher-led conservation organization.