Wyoming State Director Travels to Argentina

Andrea Erickson Quiroz, the Conservancy’s Wyoming state director, recently returned from Argentina, where she advised ranchers and other conservationists on starting the country’s first land trust. talked with Andrea about her international journey, why Argentina gives her déjà vu, and what she ordered for lunch during a meeting with ranchers at Argentina’s historic Cattlemen’s Club.

Andrea Erickson Quiroz, the Conservancy's Wyoming State Director, traveled to Argentina on a conservation work exchange. This summer, her cross-boundary colleagues will come to Wyoming to learn more about private-lands conservation tools.

Why Argentina?

Andrea Erickson Quiroz:

My work exchange was a chance to provide lessons learned here in Wyoming to the Conservancy’s new program in Argentina.

Specifically, I was there to help the Conservancy start the country’s very first land trust with ranchers and other conservationists, and address impacts from energy development.

Sounds exciting.

Andrea Erickson Quiroz:

It really was. The concept of private lands conservation is creating a whole new movement down there.

It’s like going back 40 years in the U.S. when the core message of conservation centered around private citizens who wanted to protect their own backyards.

It has nothing to do with tax incentives and everything to do with conserving the places they love.

It’s about a movement, not a transaction.

Can you tell us more about these landowners?

Andrea Erickson Quiroz:

The landowners I met with aren’t waiting around for anyone—they’re taking matters into their own hands.

It’s a 100 percent privately-led effort. Our team in Argentina is just helping them with the nuts and bolts of what it takes to conserve the places they love, like what a conservation easement legal document should look like.

That’s what’s great about working for the Conservancy; we have global reach but work at a local level.

Is Argentina up against some of the same conservation challenges that we face here in Wyoming?

Andrea Erickson Quiroz:

Just like Wyoming, Argentina is cattle country and has this fabulous tradition of ranching. The region’s ranchers are struggling to hang onto the lands they love in the face of both residential and energy development. So it’s the same sense of loss that ranchers in the U.S. feel when their livelihoods are in jeopardy.

I had a chance to sit down with a well-respected rancher at Argentina’s historic Cattlemen’s Club (I ordered beef, of course!).

Over coffee, he gathered his associates together so they could all hear me explain how the Conservancy is working on energy issues in a split-estate context here in Wyoming—just as they face there. In addition to oil and gas, Argentina is right on the cusp of seeing a big push for renewable energy.

Who else did you talk to about energy development issues?

Andrea Erickson Quiroz:

I also presented to legislators from Argentina’s Neuquen Province, including the head of the environment committee, on science-based planning we’ve done here in Wyoming to map out important places to conserve in the face of energy development.

It really put my Spanish to the test to translate words like “drill rig!”

Anyway, they loved the approach and we discussed what can be done to plan for conservation now before a flood of development takes place in Argentina.

In what other ways are the two countries similar?

Andrea Erickson Quiroz:

Being in Argentina was like traveling back in time to Wyoming when private lands conservation was just getting started. These private citizens are spurring an effort like the one so many pioneering individuals got going in Wyoming in the 1970s, when the Conservancy completed the first conservation easement in the state.

I also cannot believe how much the landscape is like Wyoming. We’d drive down a road, turn the corner, and I’d get this incredible sense of déjà vu and feel like I was looking at the hoodoos up the North Fork outside of Cody, or looking down a fence line on the southeastern Wyoming plains.

What happens now?

Andrea Erickson Quiroz:

Well, now we are in the process of inviting our colleagues in Argentina to visit Wyoming this summer. We plan to bring together conservation practitioners and legislators to share ideas on what’s working here in Wyoming, and discuss how to have a science-based approach to planning for their future from an economic, social and environmental perspective.

I really encourage anyone interested in this cross-boundary effort to let us know. The time is now for Argentina, and it’s an exciting opportunity to connect the dots between these two very similar places.

Here's the beef! During her travels, Andrea Erickson Quiroz tasted local beef while meeting with ranchers starting the country's first land trust. Like Wyoming, Argentina is cattle country.

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