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