Updated: Sep 25
Land owners, conservationists, public policymakers and corporate representatives gathered at the Philmont Training Center August 21 to 25 for the inaugural Philmont Land Management Symposium. The event aimed to address a variety of land management issues and climate-related events threatening Philmont today, while planning for the future.
“We want to continue to preserve the beauty of Philmont for future generations,” said Degas Wright, chairman of the Philmont Ranch Committee. “But we're going to extend our impact beyond the boundaries of Philmont by hosting the Land Management Symposium to not only address the challenges that we face here at Philmont, but also the environmental challenges that impact our surrounding neighbors in the state of New Mexico, the Southwest, and the nation.”
This event comes on the heels of several devastating wildfires at Philmont within recent years. The 2018 Ute Park fire destroyed more than 30,000 acres across the central country leading management to close the Ranch for the summer for the first time in Philmont’s history. The 2022 Cooks Peak and Calf Canyon fires devastated 3,000 acres to the South of Philmont, including the Zastrow staff camp and several trail camps. These wildfires are credited with influencing new priorities from Conservation leadership from a reactive to a more proactive approach to preventing wildfires before they begin.
“We've got to start somewhere,” said Dave Kenneke, Director of Ranching and Conservation at Philmont. “We need to be proactive in land management, in essence, to do what would have been taking place without the intervention of society. It's doable, it's achievable. But it's a monumental task.”
The week consisted of presentations conducted by various industry professionals, including Marty Parsons and Lee Hughes of Philmont Scout Ranch, Ray Archuleta of Soil Science Society of America, Brian St. George of the federal Bureau of Land Management, Dr. Doug Cram and Dr. Owen Burney, professors at New Mexico State University, and many others.
“The whole idea is to bring land managers, policy makers and decision makers in the same room, to not only educate them on current practices that they might not be aware of, but to spend some time in the field and actually see those practices being implemented,” said Kenneke.
Besides the classroom-style presentations, participants also spent time in the backcountry to see some of Philmont’s most recent conservation projects.
“Our vision is to make Philmont that ‘land laboratory’ that others can benefit from.” said Wright. “We want to start to network, to get to know each other, in order to find collaborative resolutions or solutions to these challenges.”
The curriculum included day trips to locations such as the Bonito Creek restoration project, led by Seth Mangini, a geoscientist at Philmont, who is researching how process-based restoration practices can be implemented at a watershed scale. Another trip to Deer Lake Mesa, led by Dr. Aalap Dixit and Pouli Sikelianos of New Mexico Highlands University and New Mexico State University, respectively, focused on several field experiments conducted to improve the survival and growth of planted ponderosa pine seedlings in the American Southwest.
“To me, perhaps the most fulfilling part of it has been seeing the interaction, the exchanging of ideas, the great conversation that has taken place, the sharing of examples,” said Kenneke. “We've hammered the word ‘networking’ during the Symposium but it has just been wonderful to see that collaboration started, because on a landscape scale, throughout the West and throughout the country, that's the way to successful stewardship and management of our forests and watersheds and grasslands.”
“We encourage everyone and anyone that wants to make an impact, preserving nature's beauty, to come along with us for this journey because we're excited about it, we're passionate about it, and we will make a difference,” said Wright.
The next Land Management Symposium has been tentatively planned for the week of August 19-23, 2024.