Picking Ranchers’ Brains

Picking Ranchers’ Brains

Fernandez-Gimenez, with sheep herd in Spanish Pyrenees, in 2011.

A Colorado cowboy, a Spanish sheepherder and a Mongolian nomad walk into a bar… what do they have to talk about?

Maria Fernandez-Gimenez, a professor at Colorado State University, studies the traditional ecological knowledge of ranchers around the world, and she spoke to me about her work and findings for High Country News in January 2012.

Here’s an excerpt from the conversation, regarding how ranchers view the roles of values of predators:

HCN How similar are ranchers’ attitudes and management practices when we’re talking about interactions with predators?

MFG It was so similar, the wolf dialogue in the West and the bear dialogue in the Pyrenees, and the vilification.

In the Pyrenees, I spoke to one of the most outspoken, cantankerous herders in this village who was just renowned for being the kind of person who comes to every public meeting and stands up and yells at the government about the bear problem. But when we were talking to him, he actually he said he was able to distance himself and say, “I understand that as a citizen of this country that the bear is a public good, and I can understand why people want the bear. But as a livestock owner, I have a different feeling.” To me, it was maybe an instance of someone getting to a certain point in their maturity of thinking about an issue.


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