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A Love of the Land

August 6, 2020

Tippet Rise was created in the spirit of celebrating life on the land. It welcomes the people who cultivate the soil, the good stewards, the people who love the land.

Additional texts from Cosmology Brought Down to Earth by Peter Halstead.
Halstead, Peter and Cathy. Tippet Rise Art Center. New York, Princeton Architectural Press, 2018.

Engineered by Jim Ruberto and Monte Nickles
Produced, Narrated, and Music by Zachary Patten

00:05 ZACHARY PATTEN: There is land so surreal that it cries out for dialogue. Building on such land reduces it to an appendix of something human. It reduces it to a building site. But a sculpture elicits a conversation, not only between art and observer but the greater environment and our place in it. A sculpture can slow our pace, focus our senses, and give us a way to hear and understand the message of the land. It offers a window into the land’s special infinity.

00:45 The outdoor sculptures at Tippet Rise are cairns, waystations that help us navigate through a grassland that has an otherworldly quality. They point us in the direction of places like balance, stewardship, and harmony. But the sculptures are not the ends in themselves, they are the windows through which we see the land framed.

They are the windows through which we see the land framed.
Photo by Erik Petersen.

1:11 At the foundation, the pedestal, the roots, of these sculptures is land called short-grass prairie. As curious people who categorize and quantify, we assign names, like short-grass prairie, to natural features. But if you’ve ever stood in this landscape where sightlines travel all the way to the horizon, where clouds reach down to the land like hands, and where you can feel the sound of wind through the grass harmonizing with your nervous system, you know these labels are oversimplifications.

1:49 Photographs taken from space show our atmosphere as a thin blue line. Its thickness, a mere 60 miles compared to Earth’s 8,000-mile diameter. This thin band is the only thing that separates us and the immensity of space.

The thin blue line of our atmosphere.
Photo from NASA.

2:08 In a short-grass prairie ecosystem, the majority of life is built on the top six inches of soil. Like the atmosphere, this thin band is essential for survival. Not only ours but many native insects, vegetation, and animals. Over tens of thousands of years, they’ve formed synergies with the land that can be incredibly subtle but, collectively, they create a balanced system, a system from which we have much to learn.

2:40 What does it mean that our lives are predicated on these thin lines? They support life, they mean everything to us, and yet they are extraordinarily fragile. The flora and fauna of the short grass prairie have evolved to be naturally resilient, but our interaction with them and the land can have severe consequences with little room for error. Devastating natural disasters can also change an environment for generations. There is, however, a balance of economy and ecology that can be achieved when we commit to good stewardship.

03:20 Tippet Rise was created in the spirit of celebrating life on the land. It welcomes the people who cultivate the soil, the good stewards, the people who love the land. Although our guests are currently unable to engage in these personal dialogues between art and land, we hope that the conversation can continue in this episode of the Tippet Rise Podcast.

03:59 They say interesting and beautiful things happen at the edges. Tippet Rise is in the Stillwater Valley and is part of the largest grassland ecoregion in North America, It is rich in insects, vegetation, and wildlife but there are two natural features that dominate its landscape. The rolling, almost ocean-like, rangeland stretches farther you can see, and it’s located at the edge of the remote and rugged Beartooth Mountains.

04:29 BEN WYNTHEIN: This area is part of the high great plains, so we’re in the mountain foothills. Up against a mountain like this and you’ve got the Bighorn Basin to the south of us, and you’ve got the wide open prairie to the north, we kind of at the edge of a big funnel.

04:42 ZP: That’s Ben Wyntein, our ranch manager. He’s responsible for the rangeland of Tippet Rise. Fifteen miles southwest of TIppet Rise and closer to the mountains is local rancher, Noel Keogh, whose family has been ranching here since the 1940’s

04:59 NOEL KEOGH: Our south boundary fence is twenty two miles north of the Yellowstone Park boundary and there’s no other fences in between, just the Beartooth Mountains and the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness area. So, we are indeed right at the edge.

We are, indeed, right at the edge.
Photo by Erik Petersen.

05:13 JIM ANDERSON: I love looking at the grassland crashing into the foothills. I’m sure there’s other places like that, but I haven’t seen them in other states. I never get tired of looking at it. I’ve been looking at it several years now.

05:23 ZP: That’s local rancher and Tippet Rise neighbor, Jim Anderson. There is undoubtedly a special relationship formed between these ranchers of the valley and the last bit of hospitable land at the edge of a landscape made by the collision of continental plates. Harsh winter climate, short growing seasons, and periodic severe droughts are just some of the conditions inextricably linked to this ecosystem. But nature’s balance offsets each challenge with a sensory experience from cosmological origins.

05:58 JA: Every season looks different. When the grasses are flowering and growing in the spring, you know, when they go into their flowered state, the colors change.

06:06 ZP: Apocalyptic sunsets, a truly immense sky, and intense colors dispersed through blades of rangeland grass, and it’s this rangeland that is paramount to the people drawn to this area.

Intense colors dispersed through blades of rangeland grass.
Photo by Erik Petersen.

06:20 NK: Diversified rangeland is so important to the economy and the ecology of Montana. Eighty percent of Montana is rangeland, most of that being native rangeland. It’s the largest economic force that we have in the state of Montana, and it needs to be utilized and properly used.

06:40 BW: A short-grass prairie has to be handled just so. It needs to be grazed to a certain extent by a heavy ungulate.

06:47 NK: The mistake a lot of people have is “let’s save it, let’s protect it.” You look out here and if there hasn’t been a bit of stress put on that, I call it the couch potato syndrome. It’s no different than a teenage kid that you sit on the couch and give him potato chips and have him play Nintendo. He’s going to have diabetes, he’s going to have all the health problems, all of that, not getting good exercise, mental health, the whole gamut of things that come through. It’s the same with our rangelands and our forests.

07:15 ZP: The stewards of this land don’t take a delicate balance of stress and rest for granted, however, because here at the edge of the high prairie and the mountains, the energy of the rangeland is mostly derived from just the top six inches of soil, the thin line on which we build our lives.

We’re sandwiched here between six-inches of soil and the elements.
Photo by James Joyce.

07:34 BW: Let’s just say on our ranch the top six inches of soil support life and we’re sandwiched here between six inches of soil and the elements. The top six inches is where you’ve got all this biomass, microbes, and the different elements needed. And some of those elements are deeper, but they’re not broken down into an organic growing form. Here’s a perfect example where we built this road.

07:56 ZP: A cut made years ago in the hillside for a road shows a cross-section of the native grasses and their network of root structures, entwined and entangled with each other and the shallow topsoil.

08:08 BW: Most of this root system that you can see is in the top six inches or maybe a foot in spots. There’s a lot of energy in that six inches to a foot. We’ve got this energy from the sunlight warming the soil, we’ve got rain, everything a plant needs is in there. It doesn’t go below there because there’s nothing there for it right now. And then below that, you see how we have this bare dirt, that was subsoil. Someday, with enough organic material and whatnot that can produce, but if the whole ranch looked like that, it would look like the surface of the moon.

08:44 ZP: It doesn’t take much to erode the soil and create a lunar-like surface. Strong winds out of the southwest and heavy rains on weak-rooted grass can displace this valuable topsoil, shuttling it into basins and canyons, eventually washing into rivers that carry it east. It’s not unimaginable that this majestic prairie could be transformed into a desert.

09:09 BW: You have some places where the soil is thinner out here because it’s on a rock and the wind has eroded away all that soil over a millennia because that’s a shelf of a rock, right there. But then you go down in a creek bottom and look across the way where we have the grasses a different color of green, you can see there are deeper soils there.

In the creek bottom, grasses are a different color of green.
Photo by James Florio.

09:28 JA: In managing grass, you’ve got to be concerned with what’s going on below the surface. That’s the key to it, your root systems.

09:35 NK: You’ve got to consider your soil type, the moisture that’s in that, the moisture that you had the year before. That’s your root growth, that’s your bugs, the soil organisms that are decaying both the residual plant material that’s left there and the manure, which is a really good composting method to take that residual grass layer and turn it into new energy. The whole system all ties together. It’s all one, dynamic machine, and part of that machine is large grazing ungulates.

10:11 ZP: Noel brings up two important points: the prairie ecosystem is nuanced and synergistic. Over thousands of years, the native species have formed a system where all of its inhabitants play a special role in maintaining its function and balance. From the subterranean life, to the grass, the heavy ungulates, and most recently us, each life form has its special role. He also referred to the system as a dynamic machine. Like any machine, there are tools required to maintain its function and order. The grazing ungulate is just one of many tools ranchers use and almost any rancher you talk to in this valley has the same philosophy regarding the usage of tools.

10:55 BW: Any tool, I don’t care what tool it is; it can be sheep, it can be chemicals, it can be a feller buncher, a chainsaw, a shovel, a guitar, any tool can be used for damage. I have to use them very wisely because I could do a lot of damage really easily, anybody else could, too. There has to be a lot of self-responsibility involved in that.

11:16 ZP: Not only does it take the right tool for the job, but also the right usage philosophy in order for these many tools to help accomplish the goals of stewardship.

11:27 JA: If one of your motivations is stewardship, I don’t know how you can come to a place like this and not try to make it better, or feel compelled to improve it, or cooperate with nature and do the best you can.

11:40 BW: Our goal is range health, while simultaneously increasing the ecosystem balance.

Our goal is range health, while simultaneously increasing the ecosystem balance.
Photo by Erik Petersen.

11:46 NK: That’s why it’s so important to use every tool in the toolbox with an integrated management system, like Ben is doing at Tippet Rise with grazing. The standard grazing is take half, leave half. If you’re leaving the bottom half of that grass, it’s got enough energy still in those leaves to photosynthesize. There’s enough leaf structure left to photosynthesize and put the energy that’s needed back into regrowing root systems. That’s where your real key is, that top six inches. That’s where your root growth is, that’s where your energy is stored. If you take too much off the top on an actively growing plant it has to pull that out of the bottom to come back, and that reduces your root mass and the ability to recover.

12:29 ZP: For centuries, this land has benefited from the presence of heavy animals, and the take half leave half approach stimulates the grass to grow healthy and full. That’s part of the stress and rest balance that Noel alluded to earlier. But there are more benefits the heavy animals offer the land.

12:48 BW: That’s one nice thing about the really heavy ungulates, cattle and bison, this stuff dies down and we leave some, they’re grinding that into the surface and breaking it down over time. Maybe it’s next year’s, but if you come right here, here’s a micro-look at it. That’s a hoof-print from a cow. Ground that down in there with a little bit of rain water that pools in there and pushes those nitrogens down. It also has a clay content in it and it helps to keep it from crusting up, so the top can take in things, and doesn’t actually form a cap. These roots help channel water down and pull it in.

13:29 ZP: As mentioned earlier, this area is susceptible to droughts and the average annual precipitation in the high prairie is only 12-20 inches. So think how every step taken from a large animal helps prepare the ground to hold the valuable moisture. Taking the synergy one step further, the heavy weight of the animal slowly grinds some of the dried grass into smaller and smaller particles over hundreds of years, and it eventually forms the same topsoil from which it originally grew.

Every step taken from a large animal helps prepare the ground to hold the valuable moisture.
Photo by Erik Petersen.

14:00 BW: That is a microcosm of synergy between the soil that supports life, this is what we live on right here, the groundwater and sub-soils. Then, a grazing ungulate eating, let’s say that much, and grinding up that thatch, pushing it down, leaving enough surface grass to slow run-off to get into that subsoil, and eventually that water table.

14:28 ZP: Properly grazed and thinned grass reduces the density of the thatch, but leaves enough grass to to capture moisture and prevent serious erosion.

14:37 JA: When you get some grass on there it breaks up the droplets, it brings it down to the base of the plant, it actually gets to soak in a little bit, and the grass gets heartier and holds more rain that next year. You just get an increasingly positive affect from it.

14:53 NK: If we don’t do some work as Tippet Rise has, in thinning, if we don’t take a conscientious approach to properly grazing that land, then we’re going to end up with all sorts of problems.

15:06 ZP: It’s frightening to envision the precarious balance of elements playing out all over the short-grass prairie. Removing just one of any of these subtle functions will magnify greatly over time.

15:18 BW: If you take one part out of this, let’s say you take the grazing ungulate out of this, it’ll look fine for about three years. In fact, it’ll even look like, “Wow, look at all that forage out there, look at all that biomass growing.” But, eventually, when that starts laying down, you’re going to get that thatch layer and it’s going to start choking out that biomass.

15:37 ZP: The thatch layer is an abundance of organic material, including ungrazed grasses, that have collected and created a covering over the soil and smaller vegetation, preventing new undergrowth.

15:49 BW: The cattle are taking off just enough to allow sunlight and water to penetrate. They’re grinding up that thatch layer a little bit every year, and it all balances really beautifully.

16:02 ZP: Problems begin cascade if the land goes ungrazed for too long and swings out of balance. Thatch that’s grown very thick quickly leads to one of the more severe problems facing this rangeland.

16:15 JA: It goes back to the toolbox. You’ve got to use it all, you do. And then about the time you get it all going the way you want, you have a drought or a fire.

Not if, but when. It’s going to be a lightning strike or something to that effect.
Photo by Erik Petersen.

16:25 BW: We are, at some point, going to have a natural fire on Tippet Rise. Not if but when. It’s going to be a lightning strike or something to that effect. It’s going to happen, it’s natural. Our goal is to have the rangeland in its most natural state possible so, in our culture and in our current ecosystem, that it doesn’t burn so hot that the ground gets sterilized. But we also want full ground cover so we don’t have major erosion issues. If, instead of a dry year and fires, we have crazy amounts of rain. How do we achieve that? One of the ways is with the cattle. Cattle graze so close to how bison do, it’s actually a good substitute.

17:07 ZP: Here’s a good example of the kind of balance the local ranchers try to achieve. The full, lush grass grown from a healthy soil, which provides habitat and forage for insects, birds, and animals. It also helps prevent erosion by damming the water and absorbing it into its roots. But yet, a grass area that’s not too dense such that it supplies ample kindling for a wildfire.

17:31 BW: It cannot be overgrazed or it will be destroyed. If it’s under grazed, it will be destroyed. I’ve used that analogy of wine before: after a big meal, it is literally like there’s a right amount and there’s a wrong amount. There’s a right time and there’s a wrong time. There’s too much and there’s too little.

17:50 ZP: What if in the future a couple of Ben’s examples become true. Let’s say there’s a large area that hasn’t been grazed, and the grass is very tall, dense, and lush. Let’s also say that the inevitable lightning strike actually occurs in that ungrazed pasture. The effects we don’t even have to imagine, because in 2007, that scenario happened in the next county over. A lightning strike grew into the Derby fire which burned for 23 days, destroyed 26 homes, and scorched 207,000 acres.

18:24 JA: Well, wildfires don’t really give you any benefit because they always come at a bad time. It’s usually dry and the plants are in a weakened state, anyway. Whereas a controlled burn, you do it when there’s good soil moisture and the right season. That can be beneficial.

18:42 BW: Not that fire is a bad thing, but if you have too much forage on this much soil, or less, you can actually cook that soil and basically sterilize it. So, you take away that fertility factor or you damage that fertility factor. So, when things come back in and regrow after that fire, you have a lowered capacity to create what was created before.

19:06 ZP: When you’re unable to have control over the natural tool or the system is out of a natural balance, the challenges will continue to compound.

We live in a land of extremes.
Photo by Erik Petersen.

19:16 BW: All of the sudden, the soil component is damaged for its ability to grow. Then, you have less forage for succeeding years after a hot, hot fire like that. What do you think happens when you do get a heavy rain event, soaking wet ground. Because it does happen here, we’re like in a land of extremes. So, what happens then is there’s nothing to slow that water down, to take the energy out of water and velocity coming off the side of a hill. It gets worse.

19:46 NK: Once you have a fire go through, if you’ve got a pre-existing seed source there, when you remove the competition, those seeds are going to germinate and really express themselves.

19:55 ZP: Unfortunately, Noel isn’t referring to native grass. Grass-free areas, like those made by a fire, tend to be quickly dominated by noxious weeds.

20:04 BW: The noxious weeds are the single greatest degrader to the Montana landscape that land managers are dealing with right now. A noxious weed is a species that has no competition in our ecosystem, that grows well here. Wildlife cannot utilize it for anything. Livestock cannot utilize it for anything. Because it has no competition, it takes over landscapes.

20:29 ZP: There are many classified noxious weeds in this short-grass prairie, but two in particular present the greatest challenges.

20:38 NK: Noxious weeds are the ones that are an introduced species from other countries. They’re not native to North America at all. The worst of this in the rangeland situation and soil situation that we have here, is Spotted Knapweed. It’s the worst one to spread. It has a propensity to spread, it’s like a thistle, it’s got fine little seeds that are on a little umbrella that floats in the air and floats in the water. It’s easy to pick up in mud and stuff. It’s a biennial, opportunistic perennial. So, it has the ability to seed more than once per year if it wants to. It can produce, literally, one hundred thousand seeds per plant. In these gravely shallow soils that we have here along the Stillwater, mostly glacial moraine environment, what happens is it sends out a toxin in its roots. It’s able to take out the competition of other grasses. So, it can basically be a monoculture or a near monoculture.

21:36 ZP: The Stillwater Valley Watershed Council and the Stillwater Mine have had great success in fighting this weed in the valley, but not everywhere has done so well.

21:46 NK: If anyone wants to go to western Montana in August, and take a look at the beautiful, majestic purple mountain sides, it is all Spotted Knapweed.

Leafy Spurge is easily identified by its yellow flower.
Photo by Erik Petersen.

21:54 ZP: The other troublesome weed is called Leafy Spurge, and is easily identified by its yellow flower.

22:00 JA: Well, there again. It’s an introduced plant. It’s not a native forb, and has an incredible root system - deep, deep roots. And it’ll just choke out everything if you let it go. So, you have to do some weed control, but I have seen places where they’ve been doing it a few years. They eventually get to the point where they’re running around treating individual plants. That’s my goal.

22:26 ZP: One of the ways this introduced weed is treated is by the intentional timed introduction of a non-native animal.

22:33 BW: The sheep are an introduced species. They actually don’t graze like anything that is native here. The reason for them is we have Leafy Spurge, it’s a noxious weed. Sheep and goats have a stomach that can digest the seeds, and there are certain times of the year where we use the sheep as a specific tool in specific areas to remove that seed source. There again, we are using the sheep and the cattle as a tool in rangeland health, to achieve those goals.

Sheep are used at a certain time of year to remove the Leafy Spurge seed source.
Photo by James Joyce.

23:02 ZP: One of the main goals to achieve a strong and healthy rangeland is to have a diversity of healthy native grasses.

23:10 JA: If you have a monoculture, all the same plants, all the same growth pattern, they wouldn’t make it through weather extremes very well. At the time for them to put out flower and seed, it might be so dry they can’t even grow. That’s the way the prairie lands survive, diversity. It’s a survival thing.

23:29 ZP: If you take a closer look at say a 10x10 foot square area, what you hope to see are several different types of healthy native grasses available to the animals.

23:40 BW: And they are intended to be eaten. The best thing for them is to be eaten.

23:43 ZP: Again, balanced grazing encourages and stimulates these grasses to grow. The native grasses have evolved to do well in this environment and they present a buffet-like selection for the animals - a several course meal with certain dishes being served at just the right time throughout the season.

24:01 BW: But this meal has to be served in the right courses.

24:05 JA: There are plants that have adapted here and you have to learn how to utilize those. We don’t need to re-write anything here, or re-invent anything. You synchronize with what’s available to you and improve it, and bring back the heartier native species that made it through droughts, that made it through extreme winters.

Bring back the heartier native species that made it through extreme winters.
Photo by James Florio.

24:24 ZP: This is another example of how ranchers try to maintain a balance of healthy native grass, while responsibly using tools to reduce stronger invasive plants.

24:34 BW: When you’re dealing with such a fragile ecosystem, the introduction of something that is really aggressive is really a challenge. Grasses are what need to outcompete these invasive species. If you introduce something that’s incredibly durable and aggressive, it can’t compete. There was a time when you looked out there and saw more yellow than green. It’s still there, but we’re trying to get our native plants to at least be able to have a fighting chance.

25:06 ZP: Understanding and maintaining these balances is an unending task and because this is such a fragile environment in, as Ben said, the land of extremes, positioned at the edge of the high prairie and the mountains small unbalances create huge disturbances.

25:22 BW: What we’ve done is given ourselves a margin for the unknown. A ten percent swing in this fragile environment in annual rainfall, is the difference between we’re stuck in the mud and it’s a drought. We are going to be incredibly conservative in how we manage the resource, because if we err on the other side of things, and we have that ten percent swing the wrong way in just rainfall alone, this place could look a lot different.

25:54 JA: And if you don’t learn to smooth out those exponential swings, when it’s like this you’re going to be spending a lot of money for feed, you’re going to abuse the land. When it’s like this, you’re trying to restock. I mean, it just doesn’t work.

26:07 ZP: An understanding of your specific environment, including the micro-environments throughout one watershed, and patience to see the results of your hard work sometimes years later, are two traits that a person who loves the land can cultivate for themselves over time.

26:25 JA: You manage for two or three years before you’ll actually see the results of it. It’s a slower process.

26:32 NK: I think the big thing is, you can do something about it. You, as an individual, can walk out, stand at the edge of the riverbank, and take care of a problem. An active environmentalist is one who gets up every morning and goes out and does everything he can to take care of the environment around them.

26:50 ZP: To be able to assess the health of a landscape from a quick glance, or to notice the small positive changes over time might seem overwhelming, like playing a musical instrument or hearing the themes and form of a sonata. But what we originally perceive as subtleties, are actually the point.

27:10 BW: They’re not subtle at the same time because those subtle differences make up, if we are going to use the analogy of music, a complete piece. It’s not the same without them. You stop and contemplate the piece and you start listening to the earth around you. You look around and you start to hear and see and feel the land itself.

27:32 ZP: When you really feel the land itself, you realize that, even at the edge, you and the land are connected to everything else. Important resources like fresh water from snow melt comes from the mountains next to us and it flows east. The people who are drawn here. who choose to live here and who love this land at the front edge, have taken on a special type of responsibility because what they do affects everyone after them.

Snow melt comes from the mountains and flows east.
Photo by James Florio.

27:59 NK: For me, personally, it’s given me the feeling that we are so close that we really have to be the ones taking care of it. We’re at the headwaters.

28:09 BW: I’m concerned about this whole watershed for a reason because what I do affects my neighbor. This doesn’t work if we’re only concerned about ourselves.

28:21 JA: I guess that’s the thing I love most is allowing native ranges to improve and cooperate with them. That’s my biggest interest, it always has been.

28:31 ZP: Being at the edge of the wilderness allows us to see nature’s process in its untouched form. The ranchers in this area are close enough that they can learn from those processes and incorporate them into the creation of a balanced range management system.

28:47 NK: The first reintroduced wolf they turned loose in Yellowstone Park denned right up here on top of this ridge about a mile from the house. There are grizzly bears all along this front.

28:58 BW: I don’t know what wires other people up and gets them going, I need places that are just somewhat a little bit wild and original.

29:06 ZP: People are drawn here for many reasons, the far-reaching sightlines, living under a big sky, resonating with the immeasurable mountains, or an experience of the wilderness and the wild. But for these ranchers, it’s something more, it’s an appreciation of the fragility of the land and an acceptance of responsibility to care for it.

29:28 BW: Stewardship of the land is not a one-time happy flash we’re done. It’s every year for the rest of our lives we are going to be working at this.

29:39 NK: I believe I am an environmentalist and I think if anybody has really watched what I’ve done over the years they would agree to that. And I think by and large most ranchers are, particularly out here where you’re so dependent on what mother nature provides.

29:54 JA: And I keep going back to stewardship, anytime I see something is well-cared for and somebody is a good steward of the land, I think it’s exciting, it is. It’s a love of the land and that’s not an overstatement.

30:08 ZP: In addition to the moving musical performances and thought-provoking dialogues of the sculptures, with our Tippet Rise guests, we also hope to share this unique love of the land

Sometimes I think the sculptures are a sculpture inside a sculpture.
Photo by Erik Petersen.

30:19 BW: If we’re going to have people here, we want them to experience a ranch how it’s supposed to be as far as range health. It’s almost like its own sculpture, in a way. Sometimes I think the sculptures are sculptures inside of a sculpture.

30:36 JA: How do you get any more fundamental than the land? It’s kind of exciting to me, but I don’t know…the guys that look at the sculptures get excited about it, and that’s all great, I’m all for that. And this triggers me.

30:53 NK: I still feel compelled that we have to take care of this area as best we can and I’m convinced that this was intended to be used by people and used correctly. If you do that, you can be here multi-generational, or lifetimes. It’s a pretty neat place to live, it has its challenges with that, but I guess everything in life you accept your challenges and do the best you can. I’m just tickled to death that I’m the one that got chosen to be here.

31:23 JA: I’m a grass-guy. I think grass is very underrated as far as importance. They’re a great carbon sink. They’re a renewable resource. You can take cellulose with a grazing animal and turn it into protein. There’s just all kinds of things that grasslands do.

31:37 BW: To walk through a healthy spot where I look down and I know it’s okay and it’s the way things are supposed to be, it’s just a little bit of an “at peace” with it. Just stand still for a minute and feel the wind and the sunshine, watch the grass move, and look off into the horizon. I’m okay with it.

Feel the wind and the sunshine, watch the grass move, and look off into the horizon.
Photo by Erik Petersen.