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Happenings around the region, Sept 1997

Joel Herrmann
Joel Herrmann in his camp in Owhyhee County, Idaho, USA.

The big news is that people are examining their thought processes and beliefs, and changing the way they make decisions. The following represents a small fraction of what is going on in the Northwest when people set out to manage wholes rather than parts. It's just the tip of the iceberg.


Near Bruneau, Joel Herrmann has been working for Joe Black and Sons for eight years, mainly herding cattle. Joel began to teach himself holistic management using Allan Savory's book Holistic Resource Management. He interested his employers, and Joel began experimenting with grazing planning and monitoring. The results he has created--including improved water cycle and more ground cover--have raised considerable interest in Idaho. Linda Hestag, who founded the Idaho Roundtables, says, "Joel's work is the catalyst for other people. Just that one man in a sheep camp has created all this change."

"Monitoring is one of the best ways to learn your ground," says Joel. "I've put a lot of time in it, and gained a lot."

"It's important to monitor year after year, to see if you get to your goal or not. Monitoring taught me more about whats happened biologically out there, than any reading or anything else I've done. It's got me down to scratch the ground and really look at what's going on. It has done more to make me realize that we're not anywhere near the potential that this land has offered. This land can produce more, and be healthier."

"The enterprise is not real estate. It is taking care of the land and producing from it," says Joel.

He has devoted a great deal of attention to herding. "There are no experts in the handling of livestock, possibly excepting Bud Williams. There's a lot of good cowboys, a lot of good horse hands, a lot of good ropers. But handling livestock--as far as herds . . . . When you stop and think about it, we're one of the few places that use horses. Most places they go afoot. But we think you have to have a horse or a motorcycle or something to move cattle. Of course I'm not ashamed of it--we've only been at it 200 years or less. We really don't have any experience."

Joel's employer Jay Black says that "Joel has been the backbone of what we've done here." Jay says that the land part of holistic management is easy--it is the people part that is difficult. "Holistic management is not a belief system, but a test of our beliefs."

In Challis, the listing of the Snake River Chinook salmon as endangered has created even more challenges and more tension for the area's public-lands ranchers. Thanks in part to Linda Hestag, Glenn Secrist, and the Idaho Roundtables project, the Morgan Creek Grazing Association and a group of East Fork permittees are focusing on what people want, rather than what they don't want. Says Linda, "Everything was based on regulations, rather than what everybody wanted the land to look like."

Joel Herrmann shows good perennial grass growth in a cattle loading chute that receives heavy animal impact once or twice per year.

Steve Cote, who works for the Natural Resource Conservation Service in Arco, attributes part of the Morgan Creek group's success in getting through conflict to a holistic approach. "The progress we've seen is not just because of collaboration--we've collaborated many times before. It's because of collaboration plus holistic thinking. The turning point is asking what people want."


In the San Juan Islands, Amanda Azous loves to work with individuals or groups who are committed to the process of holistic management (PO Box 530, Olga, WA 98279, 360-376-5649). She sees "a slow, long-term infusion of these ideas through agriculture, environmental issues, and governance." Growth management is a big issue in San Juan County, which has been growing at nearly 20 percent per year.

In January 1997, the WSU/Kellogg project held a statewide meeting in Yakima. Allan Savory keynoted the two-day meeting. Gregg Simonds, former manager of the Deseret Ranch in Utah, Dan Dagget, author of Beyond the Rangeland Conflict: toward a West that Works, and Tom Frantzen, an Iowa farmer, all shared their experiences. The meeting also included a panel from management support groups around the state.

Rhod McIntosh, whose group Loose on the Palouse consists of southeast Washington ranchers, farmers, and others, said "People with similar ideas and goals will soon become good friends. That's I think the heart of the group. We've had tours with family potlucks--we try to encourage family members to come--and we try to encourage any guests to participate."

"We are fortunate we have two county extension people. They're really organized and they get those letters to you and tell you when it's going to be. Farmers have trouble doing things like that."

"An idea that we borrowed from the northeast group is that we try to invite producers and agency people to all the meetings. We've picked up two producers. Agency people are a little tougher sells--but we'll get them. The fact that we've been able to get more members has encouraged us--we're kind of doing something right."

Rhod quoted a statement from his group: "The project will not give us the faith we need in our ability to implement holistic management. It is the small group that will do that."

"Comradeship is perhaps the most important single thing that binds the group and makes it successful at supporting and encouraging members. The group learns together, has fun together, and gives us the confidence to talk about things together."

The Spokane County group was described during the Yakima meeting by Cheryl Freeman: "Fortunately we had some people who took a leadership role to begin that process and help make it happen."

"We meet roughly quarterly, and we take turns being responsible for hosting, and we include potlucks. It's time for us to grow, support, and be helpful to one another."

"There were some of us that had a particular interest in growth management--which is a really big issue in Spokane County. For those of us living in rural areas, the urban issues are becoming very apparent to us, because we're actually being impacted by growth. The urban residents want the rural areas to provide all the wonderful things that they want in the county--they want the open spaces, the wildlife resources--and so it puts the burden on the rural residents to meet the goals of people in urban areas."

"Because we've been involved in traditional planning processes, we wanted it to be different. We wanted it to be healthy, we wanted it to be positive, and we wanted to be on the front end of the process. We had a big community meeting and invited people to come--utilized the consensus process, had a grounding with people who weren't familiar with it, and just explained what we were trying to do--and it was successful. Now we're taking that project to what we're calling kitchen meetings. We're going out into the community rather than asking people to come to us, we're going to them to find out what's important."

"There are a few things that have really helped us. The holistic model itself. We've also had training in consensus building--that was instrumental in helping us implement this project. First of all, realize that we can interact differently and positively as a community, to look at where our conflicts might be on land-use issues, and then to try to resolve them in a positive way that builds community, rather than in divisive ways--which are the more traditional ways. We think that the process works."

"Initially what we're doing is forming a community goal--before we go into whether an ordinance, or any other kind of action--that first we have a really good indication of where, as a community, we want to be. That's helped us to work together."

"Our focus is on valuing all views. Then you have that foundation of trust and respect for one another, and the issues themselves don't seem to be as divisive. So that rather than approaching them from the conflict basis you approach them from a resolution basis. That has had a positive influence on the whole community."

"We've had 12 kitchen meetings, with several larger community meetings with up to 60 people. We identified their issues of concern, and worst and best possible outcomes at each kitchen meeting. We brought those together at the community meetings and literally cut and pasted those together for the whole community. From that we developed a goal, a vision for the communty--a rural portion of southwest Spokane County."

"Around that goal, we're developing policy statements using the consensus process. Policy statements are a link between our community vision and the more traditional planning that the county is doing." Examples of policy statements, said Freeman, are: "Growth should be managed and reviewed with local input. The community works together toward common goals and increases our influence on decision making." Freeman feels that the concept of locally led neighborhood planning is gaining credibility.

"When I began several years ago," Cheryl said, "my interest was in my personal land management. Building community is exciting--and it was not an expected outcome then."

Terry Swagerty in Stevens County reported in Yakima that "The group in Stevens County started from an initial half-dozen statewide participants. The initial thrust was to enlarge the group as much as possible. Anybody who was interested would commit to purchasing and reading the holistic management textbook, and was considered a serious candidate. That's where my wife and I became involved. Then we were added to the state project."

"My wife and I hosted the meeting in May this last year, and we had a little watershed experience there. We chose to go through, with the group, our own personal situation--the whole under management, our three-part goal, and we chose a couple of situations to run through the testing guidelines. One of the biggest values of the support group is the value of seeing someone actually putting the material into practice."

"When you actually see it happening--when you can see the grass grow, you can see the sheep grazing, you can see the plan on paper--it makes a big difference. One of the people who is not in the project made a statement that put a hook or barb in my mind. She said, 'We can't get THERE from HERE.' That became the thrust of the group from that point on. What do you mean, you can't get THERE from HERE? In other words, 'you're too far ahead of us for us to get to that place, given the involvement that we currently have.' We began to consider the need to bring in an educator from the outside."

"At [Dave and Julie] Dashiel's place in July, we had a tremendous turnout. Everybody and his cousin and his stock dog was there. A lot of interest, serious interest. From there, Wayne Madson went to work and got Noel McNaughton in. The project grew to 58 people."

"There were 20 from the upper and middle management of Stevens County public works, the Stevens County Conservation District, NRCS, Department of Natural Resources, US Forest Service, Colville City Planners office, the healthcare industry was represented, as well as odds and ends of producers and the like. We exposed quite a group."

"We've had a tenfold increase in our group, but what do we do? Now we have an opportunity to have a big effect on what's going on in Stevens County, and a lot of good things are happening that way. But again, I would emphasize the value of seeing someone actually doing it. The Colville Tribe was gracious enough to host Wayne Madson and a few of the people from the public works department to come down and actually see the process taking place. And then they got a little more excited about the prospect of actually taking on the whole segment of the Stevens County government, and trying to manage it holistically. It's kind of an exciting process."

"Again, I would emphasize the value of seeing it actually put into practice. That cannot be overestimated. If you're going to preach the gospel, folks, you have to be living by the gospel. That's all I can say."

"Enlarging your circle of influence is really important. Those people that are truly interested, take the time to include them."

"We are committed, and now the business of accountability is square before us. It's put up or shut up time, but we're really excited about it."