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Surviving the Elements: Land & Water Issues of the West symposium begins TODAY at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum announces a symposium

focusing on rural issues to be held in March. The program titled

Surviving the Elements: Land & Water

Issues of the West aims to increase awareness of drought and rural issues in the American West, by

focusing on stewardship and conservation of land and water.

Ranching and the iconic cowboy are both important aspects of the West and of the National Cowboy

Museum’s permanent collections, exhibitions and educational programming. The two intertwined play

an important role in building a better connection to the past, present and future of western resources.

Surviving the Elements: Land & Water Issues of the West

is a series of lectures and panel discussions on such topics as land and pasture management, water usage, conservation measures, livestock/herd

management, new resource preservation and enhancement strategies. This educational series augments the story of modern day ranching told in the Museum’s permanent collection.

The Museum aims to make an impact and be a change agent for rural issues by creating a conversation between farmers, ranchers and their industry partners to help create solutions. At the center of this

conversation will be the symposium held each Friday in March 2014 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. and features world-renowned experts on several topics.

Past Influences (March 7, 2014)

Should Ranchers Study History?

by Jay O’Brien, Rancher

In a lifetime of grazing, Jay O’Brien says, “I paid a lot of tuition by making costly mistakes. Some of

that tuition could have been avoided had I paid attention to what ranchers who preceded me had learned

from their mistakes. I have had few great ideas myself, but have copied many from others. My

presentation will range from the mundane (cattle handling, castration, horses and grazing systems) to the

global (governmental influence and land prices).” The presentation may remind you of your middle

school history teacher quoting Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to

repeat it.”

The Culture of Water Law in the American West

by Donald J. Pisani, Merrick Chair of Western

American History, Emeritus, University of Oklahoma

Water law is not just a product of geography and climate. The scarcity or abundance of water help

shape the laws to allocate and distribute water, but the broader culture and values of people play an even

more important role–including their conception of government. Water law represents a series of choices

between communitarian and individualistic systems of law, between maintaining stable, egalitarian

settlements and generating new wealth. The western states have preferred laws that minimize

government involvement and defer to water users themselves. This lecture will examine the legal

choices open to westerners, ranging from Hispanic community water systems, to riparian rights and

prior appropriation, to local water districts, to direct federal and state control. It will look primarily at the

foundation of such laws in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and how these laws have shaped the

modern West.

Dust Bowl and Beyond – A Lesson for the Future from Past Hard Times

by Timothy Egan, Author

Based on his National Award Winning book

The Worst Hard Time, and the PBS series “The Dust

Bowl,” Timothy Egan’s critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic chapter of American history

from the shadows in a tour de force of historical reportage. Following a dozen families and their

communities through the rise and fall of the region, Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on

through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure and the death of loved ones. Brilliantly capturing the

terrifying drama of catastrophe, Egan does equal justice to the human characters who become his heroes

and to one of the greatest environmental disasters ever to be visited upon our land and a powerful

cautionary tale about the dangers of trifling with nature.

Current Trends (March 14, 2014)

The Challenge of Changing Climate: From the Cowboy to Today

by Evelyn Browning-Garriss,


Is the recent drought in Oklahoma connected to global warming or part of a natural cycle? Can we

predict when it will end? From the earliest days of the Indian Territory, Oklahomans have coped with

dramatic weather swings. No other state has had both the Dust Bowl and weather so wet that

it restarted a tropical storm (Erin 2007), creating hurricane force winds. Learn what is causing these

swings and what they will bring to our state this year.

A Look at the Economics of Drought—Challenges for the Agriculture Industry and Affected


by M. Ray Perryman, Ph.D. Economist

A sufficient supply of fresh water is as essential to economic vitality as it is to human health and quality

of life. Many industries rely on an affordable and reliable source of water, and regions with frequent or

long-lasting shortages are at a disadvantage in attracting quality corporate locations and expansions.

Over time, the amount of water needed will grow due to expansion of the population and economy, and

the agriculture industry will doubtless face increasing pressure to use less water. Ensuring that future

needs are met is a slow and expensive process, but the cost of failing to prepare is immeasurably larger.

This address will focus on the current status of the drought, likely ramifications, and potential solutions.

Drought and Rangeland Stewardship

by Patrick E. Reece, Ph.D. Range Scientist, Prairie & Montane


Plant species most preferred by livestock are often highly productive midgrasses or tallgrasses. Good

rangeland stewards routinely provide timely opportunities for preferred species to recover after grazing.

They also leave enough residual herbage in grazed pastures to optimize infiltration and minimize soilsurface

temperature extremes. Optimum grazing management practices differ dramatically among

environments because of the availability of soil water. The quality of one’s stewardship cannot be fully

evaluated until drought occurs because of its profound impact on herbage production. Drought kills

plants. Death loss and the amount of bare ground between plants increase as the severity and duration of

drought increase. Timely destocking and cautious return to pre-drought stocking rates are critically

important for optimizing the resilience of rangeland plant communities. When drought is severe, the

Take-Half-Leave-Half mantra will be a kiss of death because taking half of well-below-average levels of

herbage production will always leave inadequate levels of residual herbage. Good stewards have learned

how to optimize rangeland resilience and livestock production in an ever-changing environment.

Future Demands & Solutions — Part 1 (March 21, 2014)

The Oklahoma Mesonet: A State-of-the-Art Network for Weather and Soil Monitoring

Ronald Elliott, Ph.D, Registered Professional Engineer, Environment and Natural Resources, Emeritus,

Oklahoma State University

As the National Research Council’s “gold standard” for statewide weather networks, the Oklahoma

Mesonet is a long-term collaborative effort of the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State

University. The Mesonet’s extensive network of field stations provides an unparalleled suite of real-time

weather and soil observations and value-added information products. Mesonet data sets and decisionsupport

tools are widely utilized by individuals, government agencies and businesses engaged in

agricultural production, drought monitoring, fire management, natural resources stewardship, public

safety, weather forecasting, education, research and other areas of application. In order to better

understand and respond to our natural environment, it is critical that we monitor and measure that

environment, and bring relevant information to bear in effective decision making. The Oklahoma

Mesonet is a 21s t century asset serving a citizenry that knows very well the impacts of weather and

climate variability.

America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It

by Robert Glennon, Author and Water Resource


Are we running out of water? Water policy expert Robert Glennon goes in-depth on the irony and

tragedy of America’s water crisis. Sharing eye-opening and sometimes humorous stories, Glennon

reveals the wanton extravagances and everyday inefficiencies that are sucking the nation dry. Glennon

argues that our water problem is very real, and, if not addressed, our water shortages will not only

impact the environment, but every aspect of American life. Using an economical perspective, Glennon

offers suggestions on what we can do to reclaim and conserve this finite resource and why we must look

at water as both a commodity and fundamental human right.

What is the Future of Rangelands? Natural Resources and What Can Be Done to Restore Them

by Allan Savory, President & Co-Founder, Savory Institute

Livestock, mainly cattle, when greatly increased in numbers and properly managed, can reverse the

serious desertification taking place in America, and consequently, the decline of western culture, rural

towns and the public vilification of cattle. All will be put in global perspective, including America’s role

in the most volatile region of the world; where ancient pastoral cultures are being forced into cultural

genocide for the same reasons the cowboy culture is fading. This presentation will address solutions

rather than a doomsday outlook—and how this process can be reversed by managing holistically

embracing modern science and traditional knowledge.

Future Demands & Solutions — Part 2 (March 28, 2014)

How can you love the land and still use it?

Chet Vogt, Rancher, Silversmith

Vogt raises a series of questions to explore special issues of the rancher, the environment, grazing

practices and the livestock business. He shares his successes and failures at the Three Creeks Ranch.

Innovative Solutions for a Dry Future

by J.D. Strong, Oklahoma Water Resources Board, Executive


Oklahoma’s past has been plagued with significant drought episodes, from our definitional Dust Bowl of

the 1930s to the even more significant drought of the mid-1950s. We know the periodic droughts faced

in our past will repeatedly appear in Oklahoma’s future. In fact, many climatologists believe drought

will become more prevalent in our future. Combine this ominous forecast with the projections from the

2012 Update of Oklahoma’s Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP) that demand for water will increase

by at least one-third over the next 50 years, and it’s clear that water stress will continue to mount in our

state. If we hope to continue to grow and prosper without the stress of water shortages frustrating our

every move, Oklahoma will need innovative solutions. Just as our forefathers spent great sweat and

capital in the decades following the Dust Bowl building the reservoirs and other water infrastructure we

enjoy today, so too will current generations of Oklahomans have to make bold decisions and costly

sacrifices to ensure reliable water supplies to meet the needs of children and grandchildren. Unlike past

generations, the days of simply building reservoirs and giant pipelines to meet these needs are largely

behind us. While they are still options, most of the cheap and easy solutions were developed long ago. A

water-rich future for Oklahoma will depend more heavily upon water conservation, utilizing existing

water supplies more efficiently, tapping marginal and brackish waters to quench certain thirsts, and other

innovations not yet realized. Renown for our pioneering spirit and inventive ways, Oklahomans are

undoubtedly capable of ensuring that our next 100 years will be at least as bright as our first 100 when it

comes to the lifeblood of our economy and existence—water.

The Farm Grandpa Gave Me

by Seth Pratt, Emerging Leader and Former Western Region Vice

President of the National FFA Organization

Food production in our world is changing under both social and environmental pressure. Global trends

of increasing wealth and population, alongside decreasing resources, affect the way farmers and

ranchers produce food here at home. The next 50 years will see advanced, modern, agriculture spread to

every country on earth and environmental stewardship reach a new height. This age-old way of life can

be preserved and revolutionized as generation “Y” steps forward to combine grandpa’s work ethic and

love of the land with data-driven management and a new perspective.

The program is made possible by a grant provided by the Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO), through a

partnership with Great Plains Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Oklahoma City and the Coca-Cola

Foundation, has granted $100,000 to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in honor of the

Browne Family.

Registration fee is $10 and includes lunch. Reservations are required and can be made online at or by calling 405-478-2250, Ext. 280.

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Bryan Painter

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