By Nikki Melanson
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Nature.org talked with these conservationists—Carlos Fernandez, Program Director for the Conservancy’s Argentina program; Javier Beltran, Private Lands Coordinator for the Conservancy’s Argentina program; and Miguel “Mikey” Eddy, Executive Director of Fundación Neuquén—to find out their impressions of Wyoming’s wide open spaces and the people who have helped conserve them.
What similarities between the two countries did you experience?
Carlos: Both countries share many similarities in terms of the landscape—from endless grasslands to high mountains, from cattle ranching to the love for cowboys and gauchos. And, of course, both places have incredible fly-fishing opportunities.
Javier: In fact, there were often times when we would present about our work and people couldn’t tell if the pictures on the slide were from Argentina or Wyoming. It was striking to see the similarities.
Mikey: Our history also has similarities, particularly the evolution of ranching and the transformation currently happening where long-time ranching families are being replaced by buyers that want the land for recreation, such as hunting and fishing. It seems to me that we are a few years behind in this process, but there’s no doubt we are heading the same way.
Carlos: Beyond that, I think our conservation strategies are also very similar. We both have a focus on public protected areas, private lands conservation and sustainable agriculture.
Wow, it sounds like Wyoming could be your home away from home. What lessons did you learn from this trip and from the people that you met along the way?
Mikey: There were many lessons, but the most important to me was to hear how your conservation work has evolved from a similar situation as the one we have now in Patagonia, and to learn from the Conservancy’s knowledge and past experiences. Building strong relationships is critical, and I am happy we have support of the Conservancy as we move forward in our own efforts.
Javier: I found many conceptual and practical aspects being implemented in Wyoming that could help us in being more effective. For example, conservation planning, partnering with local land trusts, negotiating land deals, and implementing and monitoring conservation easements. It was interesting to learn the manner in which easements have evolved as a conservation tool in Wyoming, how they’ve been gradually tied with tangible benefits for landowners, and how they’ve become a more effective tool in increasing the area of private land under permanent conservation.
What do you hope people learned from you during your tour across the state?
Carlos: Well, I hope that people learned that Wyoming and Patagonia share not only similar landscapes, but also that the conservation challenges, threats and strategies are similar. As such, successful examples and projects can be replicated across the board and across boundaries.
Mikey: I think it was interesting for the people we met to learn that we are just beginning to work in an area—land conservation and land trusts—that they have so much experience and knowledge in. I really felt that everybody wanted to help and is excited about the possibility of working together.
Javier: Yes, and I hope people know that the exchange can go both ways! There is fertile ground in Patagonia for us to extend the cooperation and share knowledge beyond this trip.
It certainly seems that this trip is helping build a long-lasting relationship between these two countries. Tell me about a moment during the trip when you felt inspired.
Carlos: One of the most memorable moments of the trip for me was during one of our dinner events. Andrea Erickson, state director for the Conservancy in Wyoming, asked for a round of applause to recognize the couple that donated the very first conservation easement in Wyoming more than 20 years ago—before any tax incentives for those easements even existed! This couple stood up and said that they did it for the love of their land and never expected anything in return. Coming from a country where incentives for conservation are in the formative stages, it definitely inspired me to do work hard and support those folks that still do it for the love of their land.
Mikey: I think the whole trip was inspiring! The drive from Jackson to Lander was particularly memorable. It reminded me of home—where the landscape changes as you drive east, into dryer and more open country with less development and people.
Javier: I believe the whole trip had recurring bits of enjoyment and inspiration. It is always a privilege to have the opportunity to exchange knowledge, experiences and feelings with the types of “kindred spirits” we met during our travels. I really appreciate the Wyoming team organizing such a great trip, and for reserving time to be with us.