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National Cowboy Museum Announces Spring Symposium

February 5, 2014

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 repeat it."

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 modern West.

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, Climatologist

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RELATED TOPICS: Events, Cattle, Southwest Region

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