Thinking Beyond Flood Relief

Clayton Marlow, SRM 2nd Vice President and Jill Burkhardt, Intl. Mnt. Section

Membership in an organization is usually based on two personal goals; a desire to rally to a cause or to engage in some level of self-improvement.  Professional organizations generally provide the opportunity to accomplish both goals.  The Society for Range Management began as organization with a mission to advance the improvement and conservation of rangelands by training ranchers, biologists, soil scientists and land managers during annual meetings and through professional journals.  In time the SRM had to move beyond livestock grazing and range improvements to form technical committees and task forces to address the effect of changing societal values for rangeland and the associated shift in natural resource policy.  This extended outreach was possible because SRM members stepped forward to serve on the various committees and task forces to address local section and national concerns about rangeland health and condition.  A review of the Society’s history archived in the University of Wyoming Library lists accomplishments that stand as tribute to the dedicated service of our global membership.  As gratifying as these achievements have been, the SRM is facing the intertwined challenges of lackluster membership growth and a disinclination among members to re-staff standing committees and participate in newly formed task forces.

Attraction of new members, and even the retention of former members, seems to hinge on the impression that the SRM like other professional organizations has little new to offer.  While the Certified Range Management Consultant (CRMC) and Certified Professional Range Management (CPRM) standing committees have expended considerable effort and expertise to elevate the credibility of Range Management professionals, we still struggle to retain members and attract new individuals interested in acquiring either certification or enhancement of their current training.  In short, the SRM may not be viewed as a meaningful organization to many interested in natural resources and agricultural production.  A possible reason for this tepid interest may be that the SRM no longer provides a “cause” that attracts both membership and service.  In the 1950’s and 60’s the SRM’s cause was reformation of livestock and land management in the western states.  Even though there are still detractors we have fulfilled that need at the local, national and even global levels.  It may be time for the SRM to extend service opportunities to its membership beyond the organization itself.

The recent floods in east Texas have provided an opportunity for the broader SRM membership to give service outside the society.  The GOFUNDME tab on the SRM website gives members outside of the Southeast a chance to participate, admittedly at a minor level, in the relief effort.  Importantly, the actual distribution of the funds generated through this site is being done by the Texas Section, increasing their opportunity to be involved in a humanitarian cause.

Social media has played a huge role in attracting attention to the areas that have been hit hard by either hurricanes and floods, or wildland fires.  Seeing the countless photos and videos of ranchers moving livestock from flooded areas, to seeing miles of burnt fencelines, strikes a chord within all of us to help.

There is a perception the relief efforts for victims of western wildfires has been minimal compared to help being provided to east Texas producers.  However, local TV stations are mounting fire relief campaigns and there are different organizations, like the NRCS and FEMA, gearing up to help ranchers meet their day-to-day necessities.

But what about helping the land?

As we continue to experience more natural disasters (earthquakes in Mexico and new hurricanes in the Gulf and East Coasts, and wildfires in California), our diverse membership has a rich opportunity to volunteer their expertise and skills in aiding those impacted by these calamities in restoring their lands to their productive potential.

Many ranchers have lost thousands of acres of land to the fires.  How are they going to rehabilitate the land after the fires?  Some have burned so hot the land is now unproductive.  Burned area rehabilitation is going to be in high demand this fall, and into the coming year.  While some pastures will naturally reseed, others will need stabilization to protect what little soil remains; to help it recover in the coming growing season, and beyond.  Importantly, professionals and landowners must look further into the future, addressing stocking rate and grazing management changes.

An example of this future view are efforts by the International Mountain section to gather resources for these ranchers in the form of professional rangeland help.  While the idea is still in the inception phase, the section is hoping to gather a list of names of current or retired rangeland professionals that would be willing to volunteer and assist both with immediate burned area rehabilitation and long term recovery planning.  Members and other interested parties could still make a financial contribution to the sponsorship of travel, lodging and meals for the volunteers.  While not down playing the very real benefits arising from donations to the parent organization GOFUNDME site, volunteer service to wildfire and flood victims can extend beyond the time TV and internet sites move on to other stories.  Through these actions it is hoped that individuals will have a renewed interest in the Society for Range Management.  We have an opportunity to contribute our talents and energy to helping others and in return receive a boost in our self-esteem.  Let’s go to work!!

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