Talk from the Bar T Bar

by Judy Prosser

What is a REAL Working Landscape?
Is it Sustainable?

I was asked recently what makes DT different from other collaborative conservation groups, such as Grand Canyon Trust or the Quivira Coalition. We don't host controversial seminars, we intentionally stay away from the hot topics, and we don't publish beautiful four- color brochures.

What DT does do is invite people to see what these two working cattle ranches are doing: to learn what a real Working Landscape is. Every collaborative conservation group forms out of a need. Ours was to be heard and to teach others about how the business of ranching can be beneficial for the whole ecosystem: wildlife, watersheds, vegetation, soils, people that recreate on the ranches, and the people that make their livings from the enterprise.

Be it the characteristics of these land managers (ranchers) or the culture of the DT, we are not as outgoing as some would like us to be. We can be accused of being workaholics. We are people that like to stay home and get the job done; to see the results of our work on the ground.  We are not fond of meetings and have even been accused of being anti-social! Time is usually of the essence and the social aspect of collaboration takes valuable time!

On the other hand, we know that it is valuable time. We know that the social part is part of the 'whole,' and, given the world we live in today, most people are so far removed from the land and what it produces, not to mention where their food comes from, that it is a fundamental necessity we keep our doors, and meetings, open to you: the public. 

Judy Prosser with NAU students and their professor on a recent soil monitoring trip to the Bar T Bar Ranch.

We still do a lot of the same things we have been doing for over 100 years, and for four family generations. Does that mean we practice "sustainable ranching?” I don't know if we meet Whole Foods’ or Chipotle’s standards, but I know that both these ranches were founded on the plainspoken principle of improving the land. and leaving it in better condition than when we found it. It was a given that we were to take humane care of our livestock. Both my grandfather, Boss Chilson, and my father, Ernest Chilson, were pioneers in water development and range management. My husband, Bob Prosser, has the same gene. We may call it climate change now, but believe me, it is not a new concept for ranchers in the Southwest to have to deal with drastic climate cycles. For those of us that make a living by producing a product from the land, it has always been a challenge to deal with the issues presented us by Mother Nature.

I can tell you that one of the more difficult features of ranching today is that of the paperwork crisis. Government regulation is truly on steroids. It is a wonder we have time to do anything productive, as everything from replacing a post in the ground (that was already there) to cutting one tree(in an area where they were cut before) to cleaning a tank (that is already there) requires clearances from one or more divisions among one or more government agencies. We might have tipped the scales a bit in the wrong direction to ever see real work get done on public lands again. Time is not of the essence within those government walls, and we are "collaborators" who try to develop relationships with our agency participants and who try to ensure we are working towards common landscape goals. It is a new world, and we wonder why our children, the 4th generation, don't want to come back and run our ranches!

Now – off the soapbox. What I was originally trying to say is that we may not have as many organized field trips as you would expect, or perhaps you couldn't come on the last one. We want you to know that you are always welcome to call or email us and we will give you a tour of the Bar T Bar, and genuinely try to answer any questions you may have. Our contact information is below. In the meantime, enjoy a beautiful Fall!!

Judy Prosser, Bar T Bar Ranch
Contact: (928) 289-2619 or