The Radical Center

The radical center is a place where people and organizations of diverse backgrounds meet to explore their shared interests rather than argue their differences.

Rancher Bill McDonald coined the term in the mid-1990s to describe an emerging consensus-based approach to land management challenges in the American West. At the time, the conflict between ranchers and environmentalists had reached a fever pitch, with federal agencies and others caught in crossfire. The radical center was a deliberate push-back. It was ‘radical’ because it challenged orthodoxies, including the belief that conservation and ranching were part of a ‘zero sum’ game – that one could only advance if the other retreated. The ‘center’ refers to a pragmatic middle-ground of partnerships, respect, and trust – and action.

An Invitation to Join the Radical Center

Twenty ranchers, scientists and conservationists wrote a declaration ending the grazing wars and inviting people to join the emerging radical center.


Originally read at The Quivira Coalition’s 2nd Annual Conference, January 2003.


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Reflections From a “Do” Tank

“Recently, an acquaintance asked me what I did for a living. After explaining that I ran a nonprofit that worked with ranchers and conservationists in the Southwest on land health and sustainability issues, he said summarily “Oh, you run a Think Tank.” Without pausing, I replied “No, Quivira is a ‘Do’ Tank,” which elicited a nod and smile.”


Originally published in the Quivira Coalition’s Journal, no. 37, January 2012


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Land Health: A Common Language to Describe the Common Ground Beneath Our Feet

This essay examines the language of land health as a basis for collaboration.


Originally published as Chapter Ten in Conservation for a New Generation, edited by Richard L. Knight and Courtney White, Island Press, December 2008


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The Quivira Coalition

Introducing our effort to build bridges between ranchers, environmentalists, scientists, and public land managers.


Originally published in Range magazine, Winter 1999.


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Grassroots: The Rise of the Radical Center

This book includes three columns that I wrote over the years – one for the newsletter of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club titled The Uneasy Chair (1995-1997); one for the Quivira Coalition called The Far Horizon (1997-2006); and one for my web site titled The Next West (2009-2011). The first two columns chronicle the rise of collaborative conservation in the Southwest as it happened; the third explores what happened to the so-called New West.


Two recent interviews with me about the Radical Center:


Acres magazine 2016 – View PDF


Local Flavor magazine 2015 – View PDF