Peter Holter and the fine folks at Holistic Management International (HMI) are valuable partners of The Land Report. We believe in their mission, and once you learn more about them we think you will be supportive as well.
HMI is a non-profit based in Albuquerque that dates back to 1984. Its goal is to restore damaged grasslands while positively impacting land health and productivity. HMI has done this with public land, communal lands, and on private property not just in the U.S. but around the world.
Recently, while on a call with Peter, he told me about an HMI client in West Texas. In 1999, Chris and Laura Gill and their family bought the Circle Ranch in Hudspeth County. They considered the 32,000-acre, high-desert property an investment, and they wanted to improve it through increased wildlife habitat, health, diversity, and number.
After exploring a wide variety of tools to improve their ranch, the family found what they consider to be a sound process by utilizing a planned grazing approach advocated by HMI.
“I was anti-cattle and thought desert grasslands could best be restored by de-stocking,” Gill says. That changed when he learned about HMI planning and practices. Holistic Planned Grazing is “all about getting animals to the right place at the right time for the right reason.” The right reason is to improve desert grassland ecology by concentrating cattle herds, rather than dispersing them, which is the norm in conventional desert range management.
“This intense grazing,” Gill explains, “must always be followed by long-enough periods without grazing to allow complete plant and soil life recovery.” This high-concentration, long-recovery is better for plants since it mimics the natural behavior of large herds of wild herbivores in the presence of their predators, who existed on grasslands and high deserts for millennia until humans arrived.
Gill reports strong, positive results from using planned grazing over the past decade. The animals usually graze about half the ranch, moderately, as the rest recovers from grazing during the previous year. “We have experienced huge gains in stocking rate and range productivity,” while at the same time, achieving “consistent improvements in habitat, which we measure by changes in forage production.”
Bottom line? Thanks to Holistic Management, the Circle Ranch almost tripled its forage production over five years. These Texas landowners increased productivity and wildlife habitat 35 percent or better on an annual basis.