107 episodes

Interviews with innovators of the American West. Guests include writers, ranchers, athletes, artists, adventurers, conservationists, entrepreneurs—anyone who’s doing inspired work that contributes to the region’s evolving and complex cultural fabric. Through informal yet substantive conversations, conservationist Ed Roberson introduces you to these fascinating characters, giving you a better understanding of their careers, influences, and outlooks, as well as a deeper appreciation for life in the American West.

Mountain & Prairie Podcast Ed Roberson

    • Places & Travel

Interviews with innovators of the American West. Guests include writers, ranchers, athletes, artists, adventurers, conservationists, entrepreneurs—anyone who’s doing inspired work that contributes to the region’s evolving and complex cultural fabric. Through informal yet substantive conversations, conservationist Ed Roberson introduces you to these fascinating characters, giving you a better understanding of their careers, influences, and outlooks, as well as a deeper appreciation for life in the American West.

    Gabe Vasquez - Advocate for Equity in the Outdoors

    Gabe Vasquez - Advocate for Equity in the Outdoors

    Gabe Vasquez is the founder of the Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project and currently serves as a city councilor in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Gabe has devoted his entire career to advocacy and conservation, specifically for the people and places in the border region of New Mexico. He's worked for Senator Martin Heinrich, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, and recently drafted New Mexico's Outdoor Equity Fund legislation, which was the first of its kind in the nation.
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    Growing up in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Gabe developed a childhood passion for the outdoors while fishing with his father and learning about hunting from his grandfather. The outdoors has remained a focal point of his life, both professionally and personally, whether advising lawmakers on federal land policies or hunting, fishing, and hiking in the Coronado National Forest. But most importantly, Gabe has made it his mission to ensure that people of all socio-economic backgrounds and races can enjoy the outdoors, and hopefully, one day become advocates for protecting our country's wild places.
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    Gabe was scheduled to be a keynote speaker at Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Partners in the Outdoors Conference, a popular gathering of some of the country's foremost experts in conservation and recreation. But because of the COVID pandemic, the in-person conference was converted into a virtual conference. And instead of an on-stage keynote, Gabe is now appearing on this podcast with me! As you'll hear, Gabe's message of balancing conservation and recreation, while ensuring equitable access to the outdoors, is a perfect fit with the conference's theme of cultivating common ground to ensure a sustainable future for Colorado's outdoors.
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    This was a fascinating interview, and I left the conversation better informed and inspired by Gabe's leadership and vision. We started out chatting about the formation of the Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project and talking about the history and mission of the organization. Gabe then discussed lessons learned from his time working with Senator Heinrich, and how a brief stint living and working in Washington DC solidified his love for the West. We discuss New Mexico's Outdoor Equity Fund, and how he played a significant role in creating this historic and cutting-edge, public-private program. We talk in-depth about the importance of getting kids into the outdoors, and the idea of how people need to fall in love with the outdoors before they can advocate for it. And as usual, we discuss favorite books, his favorite place in the West, and Gave offers some timely words of wisdom.
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    A huge thanks to Gabe for taking the time to chat, and thank you to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for inviting me to be a part of its virtual conference. Visit the episode notes for links to everything we discuss, including the full conference schedule, which will give you access to all presentations from the virtual conference. There's a ton of exciting and informative content. But in the meantime, enjoy this conversation with Gabe Vasquez.
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    Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project CPW's Partners in the Outdoors Conference Full Episode Notes: https://mountainandprairie.com/gabe-vasquez/ ---
    TOPICS DISCUSSED:
    4:00 - Gabe’s family connection to the outdoors
    6:00 - Early job with Senator Heinrich
    8:30 - Moving to Washington DC
    11:30 - Back out West, working for the NWF
    14:00 - Formation of Nuestra Tierra
    19:00 - Why Gabe chose a service-based career
    24:00 - Lessoned learned from working with Senator Martin Heinrich
    30:15 - New Mexico’s Outdoor Equity Fund, explained
    37:00 - What Outdoor Equity Fund funds
    32:30 - Alternative funding sources for recreation
    44:00 - Other states’ response to the Outdoor Equity Fund
    47:00 - Thoughts on privilege and the outdoors
    51:00 - Creating new generations of conservationists
    54:00 -

    • 1 hr 18 min
    Chris La Tray - Rediscovering His Past, Writing His Future

    Chris La Tray - Rediscovering His Past, Writing His Future

    Chris La Tray is a writer, poet, and musician, as well as the author of the award-winning book "One Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays from the World at Large." Chris is also an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe—a Native American tribe that was just recently recognized by the United States government, and prior to the recognition was known as the "landless Indians of Montana." Chris's immense talents as a storyteller combined with his unique personal perspective allow him to offer a fresh approach to understanding the complexities of the modern-day American West.
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    Chris was born and raised in Frenchtown, Montana, a small blue-collar community located just west of Missoula. Growing up with a deep passion for music, Chris headed to Seattle soon after high school to pursue a career as a professional rock musician, but he eventually made his way back to Frenchtown, where he worked for years in the manufacturing industry. But in 2015, following the death of his father, Chris quit his manufacturing consulting job and went all-in on pursuing his dream of being a full-time storyteller. A few years later, he published One Sentence Journal and has been widely recognized as one of the West's most unique up-and-coming authors.
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    Chris and I had an interesting and timely conversation about his career, his life as a writer and musician, and his family's heritage as members of the Little Shell Tribe. We start out by discussing the genesis of his idea for "One Sentence Journal," how writing the book has changed his life, and a few stories from his many years as a professional musician. Then, we talk in-depth about the long-overdue federal recognition of his tribe and his thoughts on how the tribe can move forward. We also discuss how the long-term treatment of his tribe gives Chris unique insights into the current national discussions around race and privilege here in the United States. Chris also offers up a long list of excellent books on a wide variety of subjects related to the West and Native Americans that I know you will all find useful. Links to everything are in the episode notes.
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    Thanks to Chris for taking the time to chat, and I encourage you to check out One Sentence Journal. But in the meantime, enjoy this wide-ranging conversation with Chris La Tray.
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    Chris La Tray
    "One Sentence Journal" by Chris La Tray
    Full Episode Notes: https://mountainandprairie.com/chris-la-tray/
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    TOPICS DISCUSSED
    6:30 - Influence of Jim Harrison
    8:40 - Writing practice that led to “One Sentence Journal”
    11:30 - The amazing community of Montana writers
    14:30 - The “practice” of creative output
    16:30 - Decision to leave his manufacturing job
    19:30 - Early years in Montana and beyond
    21:30 - Music’s role in Chris’s life
    24:00 - Becoming a “musician”
    25:30 - Reading/writing vs music
    27:00 - Chris’s Little Shell Tribe heritage
    32:30 - Emotional impact of learning family’s history
    35:15 - Thoughts on the Little Shell’s federal recognition
    38:30 - Ideas for the future of the Little Shell Tribe
    40:00 - Specifics of federal recognition
    44:00 - How to read to expand knowledge and eliminate blind spots
    46:30 - Hope for the future?
    54:00 - Fact and Fiction Bookstore
    59:00 - Favorite books
    1:03:30 - Favorite location in the West
    1:05:30 - Parting words of wisdom
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    • 1 hr 9 min
    Rachel VandeVoort - Harnessing the Power of Outdoor Recreation

    Rachel VandeVoort - Harnessing the Power of Outdoor Recreation

    Rachel VandeVoort is the Director of the Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation, an office that advocates for the outdoor recreation industry and works to leverage its numerous benefits to the state. The office was created in 2016 by Montana Governor Steve Bullock, and he tapped Rachel to be its first director, where she built the office from the ground up. Since then, the office has experienced amazing growth in influence and effectiveness, and it has served as a shining example for other states that have formed similar offices.
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    A native Montanan, Rachel has a diverse background that makes her uniquely qualified for her role as Director. She grew up working for her family's river guiding business in and around Whitefish, MT and also spent time as a fishing guide. After graduating from the University of Montana, she worked in a wide variety of industries that are closely connected with land and recreation, including organic farming, skiing, and firearms manufacturing. Thanks to her diverse and deep experience in all facets of the outdoor world, Rachel has had great success finding common ground between sometimes-competing stakeholders to harness the collective power of Montana's recreation industry.
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    Rachel was slated to be a keynote speaker at Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Partners in the Outdoors Conference, an annual gathering that brings together stakeholders from all corners of the conservation and outdoor recreation industries. But because of the COVID pandemic, the in-person conference was transformed into a virtual conference—and Rachel's keynote speech was transformed into this episode of Mountain & Prairie. I was thrilled to have the chance to speak with Rachel, because her work aligns so well with the theme of the Partners in the Outdoors Conference, specifically, how do we find common ground and mutually beneficial solutions for balancing conservation and recreation.
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    We covered a lot in a little over an hour, including the history of her job and the office, the staggering positive economic impacts of the outdoor industry, and ideas around funding conservation through recreation now and into the future. We also talked a lot about Rachel's eclectic background and how all of her varied experiences make her uniquely qualified for her position. Rachel shares some thoughts on finding common ground among competing stakeholders, the importance of understanding history in the West, and the collaborative nature of the outdoor recreation industry. Be sure the check out the episode notes for a full list of topics discussed.
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    Big thanks to Rachel for taking the time to chat and to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for partnering with Mountain & Prairie for this series of podcasts. If you have a chance, visit the Partners in the Outdoors website all of the conference content—there's quite a line up of virtual courses and learning opportunities. But in the meantime, enjoy this educational episode with Rachel VandeVoort.
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    FULL EPISODE NOTES: https://mountainandprairie.com/rachel/ Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation CPW's Partners in the Outdoors Virtual Conference ---
    TOPICS DISCUSSED:
    3:45 - Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation explained 7:45 - Massive economic impacts of outdoor recreation 10:00 - Economic impacts in Montana specifically 11:30 - Process of creating the office for Montana 12:45 - Outdoor infrastructure in Montana 15:15 - The positivity of the recreational economy 17:45 - Learning from other states' outdoor rec offices 18:45 - How Montana's rec office differs from Colorado's 20:45 - Rachel's eclectic background 22:45 - Desire to stay in Montana 26:00 - First job in organic food 29:30 - Starting her job in the firearms industry 34:00 - Communication lessons learned from a childhood in recreation 37:15 - Techniques for finding common ground between competing stakeholders 39:45 - The false prem

    • 1 hr 8 min
    Chris Burkard - The Art of Suffering

    Chris Burkard - The Art of Suffering

    Chris Burkard is a world-renowned photographer, filmmaker, and storyteller whose work captures the beauty and rawness of some of the earth's wildest places. Whether documenting iconic climbs in Yosemite or frigid surf trips deep in the Arctic Circle, Chris has established himself as a committed artist who is willing to suffer extensively to get the perfect shot. And because of his love and respect for these wild places, Chris is also a committed conservationist, using his artistic skills to showcase the importance of endangered places and effect positive policy changes.
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    Born and raised on the Central Coast of California, Chris spent much of his youth exploring the mountains and coastline of his home state. During high school, he fell in love with photography and eventually left college to pursue it as a full-time career. After several years of working to establish himself in the business, Chris’s commitment and hard work paid off—he’s now one of the most sought after photographers for a wide range of clients, from corporations like Apple to independent publications such as "Surfers Journal" or "Modern Huntsman." Chris’s career is a testament to the power of hard work, positivity, boundless energy, and laser-like focus.
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    I’ve been a fan of Chris’s for years, so it was a real pleasure to have the chance to chat with him. We both took a break from our respective quarantines and kid-wrangling duties to meet up via Skype for a fun and wide-ranging conversation. The specifics of Chris’s photography career have been documented extensively in audio and print, so I wanted to learn more about what makes Chris tick—why he chooses to suffer in dangerous environments, how he and his wife engrain grit in their two sons, and how he manages to muster positivity during tough times. We also talked a lot about his commitment to conservation, as well as his commitment to working with smaller, independent outdoor publications. And as usual, we discuss favorite books, places in the West, and Chris offers some timely words of wisdom. Links to everything are in the episode notes.
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    A huge thanks to Chris for taking the time to chat during such a crazy time. I hope you all enjoy this conversation—it’s a much-need burst of energy and optimism during this challenging time!
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    https://www.chrisburkard.com Full Episode Notes: https://mountainandprairie.com/chris-burkard/ ---
    TOPICS DISCUSSED:
    3:30 - “Pain is a shortcut to mindfulness”
    7:15 - The process of learning to appreciate pain
    10:00 - Growing up in California
    14:00- When photography entered Chris’s life
    16:00 - Deciding to leave school to pursue photography
    18:30 - Choosing to be positive
    22:30 - Thoughts on cultivating grit in children
    25:00 - Striving to live up to one’s full potential
    27:15 - Outdoor adventure as a parenting tool
    29:30 - Re-evaluating risk as a parent
    36:00 - Training for mental stress
    37:30- Ultra-endurance bike riding
    42:00 - Meditation training
    43:00 - Dealing with the stress of COVID-19
    46:30 - Work in the conservation world
    53:45 - Commitment to working with smaller outdoor publications
    58:30 - Favorite books
    1:02:30 - Favorite places in the West
    1:04:45 - Parting words of wisdom
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    ABOUT MOUNTAIN & PRAIRIE:
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    • 1 hr 9 min
    Dan Prenzlow - Generous Service, Humble Leadership

    Dan Prenzlow - Generous Service, Humble Leadership

    Dan Prenzlow is the Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the agency charged with managing wildlife, lands, natural resources, and outdoor recreation throughout the great state of Colorado. Dan started with the agency back in 1986 as a District Wildlife Manager and steadily worked his way through the ranks, assuming the role of Director in the spring of 2019. Born and raised in Colorado, Dan has had a lifelong love of recreating in the state's open spaces and wild places, and he has devoted his entire career toward protecting and managing them for the benefit of present and future generations.
    Dan and I were scheduled to meet at CPW's annual Partners in the Outdoors Conference, an extremely popular gathering that brings together stakeholders from all corners of the conservation and outdoor recreation sectors. The conference has become the foremost opportunity for organizations, businesses, agencies, universities, and more to come together to find common ground and mutually beneficial solutions for balancing conservation and recreation here in Colorado. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic made the in-person conference impossible, but thankfully the amazing team at CPW was able to move the conference online, and this podcast is a part of the new virtual conference.
    If you love spending time outdoors, whether here in Colorado or anywhere else, I know you'll glean lots of valuable information from this conversation. Dan and I spend the first half of the conversation discussing some of the specifics around CPW—the organization's history, the success of the Partners in the Outdoors Conference, CPW's important role in private land conservation, and CPW's role as a national leader in balancing conservation and recreation. During the second half of the conversation, we discuss Dan's personal backstory—why he decided to pursue public service as a career, his family's long history of service-minded work, and how he worked his way up to the role of Director. Dan also shares many valuable leadership lessons, including the importance of humility, empathy, and surrounding yourself with a strong team. 
    As usual, there is a ton of valuable information in this episode, so I encourage you to check out the episode notes for a full list of the topics we discussed and links to all of the information we reference. And if you’d like more information about how you can participate in Virtual Partners in the Outdoors Conference, that link is in the episode notes as well.  
    Thanks to Dan and his team at CPW for all of their important work. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!
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    Virtual Partners in the Outdoors Conference: https://cpw.state.co.us/partnersconference
    Full Episode Notes: https://mountainandprairie.com/dan-prenzlow/
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    TOPICS DISCUSSED:
    3:30 - Colorado Parks and Wildlife (“CPW”) described 6:50 - CPW’s "Partners in the Outdoors” program 11:45 - Colorado’s population boom and its impact on CPW’s work 16:00 - CPW as a trusted conservation partner 21:30 - CPW’s “Ranching for Wildlife” program 26:30 - Partnership successes that can result from adversity 28:00 - CPW as a national leader in conservation and recreation 22:30 - Dan’s personal journey to CPW 37:30 - The importance of service for Dan and his family 40:30 - Leadership lessons gleaned from rising through the ranks at CPW 45:30 - What characteristics Dan looks for in employees 50:45 - Techniques for finding common ground between competing stakeholders 57:00 - Favorite books 58:50 - Favorite location in Colorado -----
    ABOUT MOUNTAIN & PRAIRIE:
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    Upcoming Events
    About Ed Roberson
    Support Mountain & Prairie
     

    • 1 hr 3 min
    Callan Wink - A New Voice for the New West

    Callan Wink - A New Voice for the New West

    Callan Wink is a writer, novelist, fishing guide, and surfer who currently splits his time between Livingston, Montana and Santa Cruz, California. He’s the author of the newly released novel August, as well as the highly regarded short story collection Dog Run Moon, books that I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed. Callan’s writing speaks for itself, but if you’re looking for credentials, he’s got those too—he’s been published in The New Yorker, Men’s Journal, The Best American Short Stories Anthology, and more. He’s also been awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Arts and Stanford University, where he was a Wallace Stegner Fellow.
    A native of Michigan, Callan moved west soon after high school, where he began guiding on some of Montana’s most renowned rivers. In the ensuing years, writing became more and more of a focus, and eventually, he published Dog Run Moon. Currently, Callan writes seasonally—he guides in Montana during the warm months, then moves to California during the winter, where he focuses exclusively on writing, with surfing filling the remainder of his non-writing time.
    Callan and I connected via the internet from our respective quarantines and had a fun conversation about fishing, writing, reading, creativity, and more. We started out talking about his upbringing in Michigan and how fishing eventually led him to build a life in the West. We discuss the pros and cons of his seasonal approach to writing, and how working as a fishing guide helps to fuel his writing career. We talk about the importance of being a keen observer of people, and we also discuss where and how he finds inspiration for his characters. We also talk about his friendship with the legendary author Jim Harrison, and how that relationship has positively affected his life and work.
    I encourage you to check out August and Dog Run Moon—I think you’ll enjoy them both. But in the meantime, enjoy this wide-ranging conversation with Callan Wink.
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    All Episode Notes: https://mountainandprairie.com/callan-wink/
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    TOPICS DISCUSSED:
    3:30 - Callan’s early years in Michigan
    4:00 - Childhood ideas about the west
    6:30 - Heading to Montana to fish
    10:30 - Childhood obsession with reading
    12:30 - Progress toward becoming a professional writer
    18:30 - Lessons learned from grad school
    21:00 - Balancing writing and fishing
    23:30 - Gathering material for characters
    30:15 - Callan's writing routine
    33:30 - How an idea becomes a short story or novel
    37:00 - How the novel August evolved from a short story
    39:30 - Outlining versus organic growth of a story
    43:00 - Jim Harrison’s influence
    45:45 - Poetry Recommendations
    51:00 - Callan’s current reading habits
    54:00 - Advice for aspiring writers
    58:30 - Favorite books
    1:00:30 - The magic of Road House
    1:01:30 - Favorite location in the West
    1:04:00 - Best advice ever received
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    ABOUT MOUNTAIN & PRAIRIE:
    Mountain & Prairie Podcast
    Mountain & Prairie SHOP Mountain & Prairie on Instagram
    Upcoming Events
    About Ed Roberson
    Support Mountain & Prairie
     

    • 1 hr 6 min

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