Friday, November 12, 2010

SRM Spotlight: Rex Pieper, New Mexico Section

By Julia Workman, SRM Outreach Intern

New Mexico State Professor Emeritus Rex Pieper has seen several positive changes in the Society for Range Management since joining in 1957. One of the biggest changes, he says, is the increased student involvement he sees at the university, section, and national levels. Students have always had a big role to play, and Rex says that this increase has also been important for recruiting new members and new ideas.
He should know. Rex himself joined SRM while a student at Utah State University, where he was working toward his Master’s degree in Range Management after receiving a B.S. in Wildlife Management at the University of Idaho. He later became a member of the California section while he worked toward his Ph.D. at the University of California-Berkeley, and finally joined the New Mexico section in 1963 when he accepted a position at New Mexico State University. While at his position with NMS, Rex spent his time teaching and conducting research at the Fort Stanton Experimental Range in the Sacramento Mountains. His research had a few different foci, including livestock grazing and diet work, and ecology work such as that in piƱon-juniper woodlands.
Throughout his involvement with the New Mexico SRM section, Rex has worn several different hats, serving as the section President, the Scholarship Committee Chair, a National Advisory Committee member, and finally as the section Historian, the position he currently holds. When he was not involved in SRM activities, he often spent time traveling with his family. In recent years, however, he has taken up a new pastime: “When I retired they gave me a set of golf clubs,” he laughs, “so I’ve got to break those in."
Rex notes that one of the major changes to the range profession over the years has been a demographic shift in range students, an increasing number of whom are from urban backgrounds. He adds that the same goes for their professors. “When I was starting out,” he says, “most of us had rural backgrounds.” Rex himself, raised on an irrigated South Idaho farm, is from the traditional, rural stock. Yet he does not believe the change is all bad: although a range student, professor, or professional who was raised in an urban setting may have weaker ties to the land than one raised in close proximity to it, these urban-rooted range managers can bring fresh, new insight to the field. He also notes that population in the West is booming and major population shifts are occurring, with a movement toward subdividing ranches into smaller parcels and ranchettes. This gives the range management industry a broader prospective, drawing attention to such aspects as carbon sequestration and multiuse management practices. This broad face is a direct result of many people, from different backgrounds and viewpoints, taking an interest in the management of rangelands.
The Society for Range Management will be able to adapt to these changing demographics by integrating these different perspectives into our own understanding of range management. The trick is to adapt while maintaining SRM’s ties to the land and the ideals of its founders. One aspect of this involves sharing experiences in the field, especially at the local and section levels; this sharing and the associated transfer of knowledge, particularly from older to younger members, is an important part of SRM. The fact that the Society involves scientists, technicians, land managers, ranchers, and practitioners in this sharing process makes it unique. The future, then, is bright. However, he emphasizes that it is important for all members to stay involved. “Don’t assume that someone else will take care of it. We all have a role, we all have an interest.”

No comments: