142 episodes

Conversations with innovators of the American West. Guests include athletes, artists, adventurers, writers, ranchers, conservationists, entrepreneurs, thought leaders—anyone who’s doing inspired work that contributes to the region’s evolving and complex cultural fabric.

Through informal yet substantive interviews, 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 with Ed Roberson Ed Roberson

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.9 • 740 Ratings

Conversations with innovators of the American West. Guests include athletes, artists, adventurers, writers, ranchers, conservationists, entrepreneurs, thought leaders—anyone who’s doing inspired work that contributes to the region’s evolving and complex cultural fabric.

Through informal yet substantive interviews, 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.

    Ryan Busse - Standing His Ground

    Ryan Busse - Standing His Ground

    Ryan Busse is a Montana-based conservationist, public lands advocate, and former top-performing firearms executive. He's also the author of the new book "Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry that Radicalized America," which has received advanced praise from everyone from Publishers Weekly to Senator Jon Tester. Ryan is a life-long hunter and angler, as well as a proud gun owner, and he brings a unique, nuanced perspective to our country's ongoing debate about guns and the Second Amendment. "Gunfight" is in no way an "anti-gun" book-- rather, it's an insider's examination of how and why the firearms industry transformed from a sportsman-centered business into a politically driven machine that uses decisiveness and fear to grow profits exponentially. From a broader perspective, "Gunfight" helped me to understand how we ended up at this bizarre moment in history-- a moment defined by anger, misinformation, tribalism, and binary thinking.
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    Ryan was born in western Kansas and grew up on his family's ranch, where most of his childhood was centered around hunting, fishing, and a close connection to the land. After college, Ryan focused his energy on building a career in the sporting goods industry, first working for an optics company and then moving into the firearms business. Ryan found his calling as a gun salesman, and, over the course of his career, he helped transform a small firearms company named Kimber into an internationally recognized brand. But as you'll hear in our conversation, Ryan's advocacy for public lands and conservation created a rift between him and the firearms industry-- a rift that eventually exposed the industry's authoritarian power structure that does not tolerate independent thinking or deviations from industry dogma. Ryan refused to be bullied or told what to think, and he eventually quit his lucrative job selling guns and decided to tell his story and that of the industry's transformation. The result is his book "Gunfight," which we are discussing here today.
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    I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of "Gunfight," and I was thrilled to have a chance to discuss it with Ryan. We started out talking about his upbringing on his family's Kansas ranch and how his father introduced him to the writings of conservation luminaries, including Aldo Leopold and Theodore Roosevelt. We then discussed his life-long love of hunting and guns, and why he chose to pursue a career in the gun industry. We discussed the exact moment when he realized that his personal devotion to public lands was at odds with his industry's stance and the unraveling that occurred over the course of the following years. We talk about why gun sales soar during Democratic administrations, the industry's shift from hunting rifles to assault rifles, some very disturbing stories from industry events, Ryan's public land advocacy, the positive influence of his wife, and much more.
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    I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation, and I learned a lot. I really appreciate Ryan taking the time to chat, and I hope you find it enlightening. Be sure to check out the episode notes for a complete list of topics and links to everything we discussed. Enjoy!
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    Ryan Busse "Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry that Radicalized America" - Bookshop & Amazon
    Episode notes and links: https://mountainandprairie.com/ryan-busse/ ---
    TOPICS DISCUSSED:
    5:00 – Ryan’s background 8:30 – Ryan discusses his father and his impact on Ryan’s conservation ethic 12:45 – Ryan talks about what he was like in high school 15:00 – Ryan discusses when he felt like his role in the firearms/optics industry was a good career path for him 17:00 – Ryan tells the story of the experience that made him second guess his career 22:00 – Following his falling out with the leaders in firearms industry, Ryan explained why he stayed in the industry 26:00 – Ryan describes an uncomfortable moment when he went to an NRA conference 32:30 – Ryan describes a mom

    • 1 hr 8 min
    Lesli Allison & Tuda Libby Crews - Durable Conservation in the West... and Beyond

    Lesli Allison & Tuda Libby Crews - Durable Conservation in the West... and Beyond

    Lesli Allison and Tuda Libby Crews join me to discuss the critical role of private and working lands in achieving durable conservation outcomes in the United States. Lesli is a founding member and the Executive Director of the Western Landowners Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advances policies and practices that sustain working lands, connected landscapes, and native species. Tuda is a rancher and owner of Ute Creek Cattle Company, a conservation-focused ranching operation in northeastern New Mexico that has been in Tuda’s family for more than 200 years. Whether discussing on-the-ground stewardship practices or the intricacies of federal conservation policy, Lesli and Tuda are uniquely qualified to offer informed and thoughtful perspectives on all aspects of private land in the West.
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    While ranchers, farmers, and conservation stakeholders have long understood the critical importance of private land stewardship and conservation, the Biden administration’s 30x30 conservation goal has brought the topic to the forefront of American politics and mainstream media. 30x30 has prompted challenging conversations about what it means to conserve land, and it has sparked healthy debates about the government’s role in private land stewardship. 30x30 is a bold initiative and its implications for private landowners, particularly agricultural producers, are enormously complex-- we’ll never find sufficient answers in pithy Tweets or surface-level news stories. So, I was excited to have Lesli and Tuda join me for an hour-long conversation about 30x30 and private lands’ role in large-scale conservation.
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    Lesli, Tuda, and I connected via Zoom and enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation, covering everything from Tuda’s family history in New Mexico to some of the intricacies of the 30x30 initiative. We started out discussing the vital role private lands play in conservation and environmental health here in the United States. Tuda talks about her family’s process of restoring her family’s ranch in New Mexico and the many environmental benefits that they have experienced. We obviously dig into 30x30, discussing its pros and cons and its opportunities and challenges. We talk about the importance of garnering local support for all land-related initiatives, and they each discuss their thoughts on the odds of success for an initiative as ambitious as 30x30. And as usual, they each offer up some excellent book recommendations that I think you’ll enjoy.
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    Please check out the episode notes for a full list of topics we discuss and links to all of the information we reference. Enjoy!
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    This episode is brought to you in partnership with Colorado State University’s Salazar Center for North American Conservation. https://salazarcenter.colostate.edu/

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    Western Landowners Alliance Ute Creek Cattle Company 2021 International Symposium on Conservation Impact Full episode notes with links: https://mountainandprairie.com/lesli-tuda/ ---
    TOPICS DISCUSSED:

    4:40 – Lesli’s introduction 6:25 – Tuda’s introduction 9:55 – Lesli discusses private lands’ role in conservation 13:25 – Tuda describes her ranch and her family’s conservation work there 19:40 – Lesli talks about performing private land conservation work at scale 24:40 – Tuda describes her process of arriving at creative land stewardship solutions 28:55 – Lesli and Tuda discuss 30 by 30 39:40 – Lesli discusses means of protecting agricultural property from subdivision 44:10 – Nodding towards public land conservation efforts, Leslie and Tuda discuss was to garner public support for private land stewardship efforts 51:40 – Lesli and Tuda talk about how they see our odds for success in these efforts 55:40 – Book recommendations 59:40 – Lesli mentions what WLA is doing from a media perspective ---
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    • 1 hr 4 min
    Hampton Sides - Tales from a Most Excellent Adventure

    Hampton Sides - Tales from a Most Excellent Adventure

    Hampton Sides is a historian and New York Times bestselling author who is best known for his engaging works of narrative nonfiction, including the books “Blood and Thunder,” “Ghost Soldiers,” “On Desperate Ground,” and more. His latest project is an ebook and audiobook titled “THE EXOTIC: Intrigue and Cultural Ruin in the Age of Imperialism,” which details the life and unbelievable adventures of a man named Mai, who was the first Polynesian to set foot on British soil. “The Exotic” is much shorter than Hampton’s previous books but much longer than a magazine article, giving the reader a chance to enjoy Hampton’s one-of-a-kind historical storytelling in only a few hours of reading.
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    Longtime listeners of Mountain & Prairie will remember Hampton’s two previous appearances on the podcast. The first was an in-depth discussion of his book “Blood and Thunder” and the history of the American West, which was recorded live and on stage at the Aspen Institute. In his second appearance, we focused on his writing and research process, and his career progression from journalist at Outside Magazine to becoming a best-selling historian. Today’s conversation takes us far beyond the American West, everywhere from remote islands in the South Pacific to King George’s court in England. So if you’re a fan of adventure, history, and profiles of Indigenous people who have often been overlooked by mainstream history, you’ll love this book.
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    Hampton and I connected virtually and had a fun conversation about the book and his process for writing it. We talked a lot about Mai’s unbelievable journey from Polynesia to England and back again, as well as the opportunities and challenges of exploring history from an Indigenous perspective. We talked about Hampton’s process for researching the book and how COVID has forced him to adjust his usual approach. Hampton was actually in the South Pacific researching the book in March 2020 when the pandemic hit, which, as you’ll hear, added an extra layer of adventure to an already adventurous trip. And as usual, Hampton offers up some great book recommendations that I think you’ll enjoy.
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    “The Exotic” is available exclusively on Scribd, which is an online service that gives you instant access to ebooks, audiobooks, articles, podcasts, and more. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Scribd over the past few weeks, and I’d encourage you to give it a shot. You can access it for free for 30 days by following the link in the episode notes or on this episode’s webpage. And I’m not being paid for this endorsement-- I’m just a fan of what Scribd is doing and the unique forms of writing that they are bringing to the world.
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    I hope you enjoy this episode, and I hope you’ll invest a few hours reading “The Exotic.”  And if you haven’t already, go back and listen to my past episodes with Hampton-- they are fun and educational conversations.  Thanks so much.
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    “The Exotic” by Hampton Sides 30-day free trial of Scribd Hampton’s first and second M&P episodes Episode notes with links: https://mountainandprairie.com/hampton-sides-3/ ---
    TOPICS DISCUSSED:
    4:00 – How Mai got Hampton’s attention 11:45 – Hampton discusses who Mai was 22:00 – Hampton walks us through what Mai did while he was in England 31:30 – Hampton explains what happens when Mai returns home 36:30 – Hampton describes doing his research while COVID-19 took off and discusses how the pandemic affected his writing 43:30 – Hampton talks about Captain Cook 51:15 – Hampton’s book recommendations ---
    ABOUT MOUNTAIN & PRAIRIE:
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    • 55 min
    Luke Smithwick - A Life in High Places

    Luke Smithwick - A Life in High Places

    Luke Smithwick is a professional alpinist, ski mountaineer, and mountain guide best known for his cutting-edge climbs and descents in the world’s wildest mountain ranges. Luke is based in Victor, Idaho, in the shadow of the legendary Teton Range, but he spends large portions of each year deep in the Himalayas, guiding clients on remote peaks or pursuing personal climbing and skiing objectives on 7-8,000-meter peaks. He is currently hard at work on a multi-year skiing project called The Himalaya 500, which is his personal quest to ski 500 aesthetic ski lines throughout the greater Himalayan Range.
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    Luke was born and raised in North Carolina, and he moved to Colorado for college, where he attended CU Boulder and studied environmental biology and cultural anthropology. When not in class, Luke immersed himself in outdoor sports and soon began working as a guide-- first a river guide on Colorado’s Upper Arkansas River and then a climbing guide. After graduation, Luke completely committed himself to the mountains, and his adventures have since taken him everywhere from the Alaska Range to his current work in the Himalayas. His company, Himalaya Alpine Guides, focuses on trips to some of the lesser-known (and less crowded) peaks in the Himalayan Range, where his clients can enjoy completely unique climbing and cultural experiences that cannot be found on more mainstream, well-known mountains.
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    Luke and I went to high school together back in the mid-1990s, and I was a couple of grades ahead of him. After graduation, we lost touch but have reconnected during the past few years thanks to shared interests and common friends. I was so happy that he joined me on the podcast, because I had lots of questions about how a guy from small-town North Carolina has become one of the world's most accomplished Himalayan skiers. We had a wonderful conversation, discussing everything from his career trajectory to this season’s climbing objectives. We talked about how he picks ski lines, how climate change is affecting the Himalayas, the unique nature of his guiding company, how he trains, why he has made his home in the American West, and his deep respect for the people, history, and cultures of the Himalayas.
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    I loved catching up with my old friend Luke. I was blown away by all he has accomplished in the past 20 years, and I have the utmost respect for his understated, humble approach to life, learning, and adventure. Be sure to check the episode notes for links to everything we discussed. Enjoy!
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    Luke Smithwick Himalaya Alpine Guides The Himalaya 500 Episode Notes with Links: https://mountainandprairie.com/luke-smithwick/ ---
    TOPICS DISCUSSED:
    4:00 – Luke walks us through his trajectory post high school and how he became a professional outdoor guide 7:30 – Luke talks about his work and his guide company in the Himalayas 9:45 – Luke explains why he focuses on a deep understanding of mountain ranges instead of just the principle summits of a range 13:15 – Luke discusses how he finds his clientele 15:30 – Luke explains the importance of local relationships for his business 17:45 – Luke discusses his project, the Himalaya 500 21:15 – Luke explains how he picks his ski lines 23:00 – Luke talks about the information age and its impact on the availability of “secret spots” 25:00 – Luke talks about the people he has met in his travels around the Himalaya 27:45 – Luke talks about how current action in Afghanistan may affect his work 28:45 – Luke discusses the impacts of climate change that he sees in his work 32:00 – Luke explains how he trains for his work and play in the mountains in order to make it a sustainable lifestyle 36:00 – Luke talks about his current 8,000 meter peak goal 39:00 – Luke discusses how he balances humility and the need for self-promotion in his field 44:45 – Luke talks about training for alpine trips in his forties 48:00 – Luke talks about his family 49:15 – Luke discus

    • 1 hr
    Shane Doyle - Reverence for the Past, Hope for the Future

    Shane Doyle - Reverence for the Past, Hope for the Future

    Shane Doyle is a Montana-based scholar, teacher, and community advocate whose work focuses on the history and heritage of Native American tribes of the Northern Great Plains. Shane is an enrolled member of the Apsáalooke Nation (also known as the Crow Tribe), and he holds a doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from Montana State University. His unique personal and professional experiences, combined with his deep curiosity and seemingly endless energy, have made Shane a well-known leader in many fields, including education, land use advocacy, and the arts.
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    Shane grew up in Crow Agency, Montana, and he did not have an interest in history until college, when a road trip with a professor opened his eyes to Montana’s rich Native American past. From that moment onward, Shane’s curiosity has continued to grow, and he has built his career around making Native American history a cultural mainstay in everything from Montana’s educational system to governmental land management decisions. Whether designing educational curriculums, making films, or singing Northern Plains tribal music, Shane is always focused on serving his community.
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    Whether you’re a long-time listener or this is your first episode, I know you’ll enjoy getting to know Shane. We started out discussing his youth on the Crow reservation, and he talks about that fateful road trip when he fell in love with history. We talk about his family and the important life lessons that he learned from his grandmother. We discuss the history of the Apsáalooke, and the importance of the Crazy Mountains from a cultural and historical perspective. We also discuss his consulting business Native Nexus, some of his film projects, and his plans for the future. And Shane obviously has plenty of excellent book recommendations, so be sure to check out the episode notes for links to all of those.
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    As you’ll hear in this conversation, Shane is doing so much excellent work and has many more projects in the pipeline. I’ll look forward to a part 2 with Shane in the future so we can hear updates on everything that he’s working on. Hope you enjoy!
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    Native Nexus Shane's film: Awaxaawippíia: The Crow Nation’s Sacred Ties Full episode note and links: https://mountainandprairie.com/shane-doyle/ ---
    TOPICS DISCUSSED:
    3:15 – Shane’s childhood and how he pursued Indigenous history in his youth 7:45 – Shane describes how he engaged in studying the Indigenous history of Montana 10:30 – Shane discusses Asaalooke Nation history  14:30 – Shane discusses his thoughts regarding a history of broken treaties 18:15 – Shane talks about the service element of his work 21:00 – Shane discusses the significance of the Crazy Mountain Range, including his own experience fasting in that mountain range 27:15 – Shane explains the regularity of his meditation ceremonies  30:15 – Shane mentions some resources for people interested in Northern Plains Indigenous culture 34:00 – Shane discusses the book he is writing, Messages from Medicine Wheel Country 38:00 – Shane talks about his film regarding the Crazy Mountains 41:45 – Shane explains how folks can get involved in the protection of the Crazy Mountains  43:30 – Shane discusses his business, Native Nexus 47:15 – Shane talks about where he thinks his career is going next 51:45 – Shane’s book recommendations 55:45 – Shane’s film recommendations, as well as some films he feels less enthusiastic about 1:01:30 – Shane’s parting words of wisdom ---
    This episode is brought to you by The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and its Montana-based AMB West Philanthropies, both of which embody the values-based approach to philanthropy and business of their Chairman Arthur M. Blank.
    ---
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    • 1 hr 6 min
    Antonia Malchik - Exploring Culture & Complexity

    Antonia Malchik - Exploring Culture & Complexity

    Antonia Malchik is a Montana-based writer and essayist, and she’s also the author of the book “A Walking Life: Reclaiming Our Health and Freedom One Step at a Time.”  She has written for publications including The Atlantic and High Country News, she also writes a regular Substack newsletter titled “On the Commons,” which I highly recommend. Antonia thinks deeply about a wide range of topics, including community, conservation, the environment, private property, the West, books, and more. She has a true talent for writing about complex subjects in an engaging, in-depth manner that both educates and challenges the reader.
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    Antonia grew up in northwest Montana-- her mother was a multigenerational Montanan and her father was a first-generation immigrant from the former Soviet Union. Her family heritage combined with her innate curiosity gave Antonia a unique perspective on the world that informs all of her work. She has lived in Moscow, Vienna, Australia, and other far-flung regions, but she has always been drawn back to the landscapes of her home state of Montana, where she currently lives with her husband and two children.
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    I’ve been a long-time fan of Antonia’s work, so it was a pleasure to finally have her join me on the podcast. Just as her work covers a broad range of topics, so does this conversation-- we discuss everything from Russian history to her Montana ancestors to her long-standing commitment to the craft of writing. We talk about why she has chosen to not participate in social media, and how she manages to consume online news and media without becoming overwhelmed. We talk a lot about her writing process, her thoughts on publishing her work,  and her approach to exploring and writing about potentially controversial ideas. We obviously talk about her book “A Walking Life,” as well as how the act of walking can contribute to strong communities, mental health, and physical well-being. And finally, Antonia is known for her excellent book recommendations, and she offers up some great ones-- be sure to check the episode notes for links to all the books and authors she mentions.
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    I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation and can’t thank Antonia enough for all of her hard work. Hope you enjoy.
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    Antonia Malchik On The Commons "A Walking Life" by Antonia Malchik Full episode notes with links: https://mountainandprairie.com/antonia-malchik/ ---
    Freeflow Institute - Special M&P Offer: https://freeflowinstitute.com Bill deBuys episode ---
    5:00 – Antonia explains why she was left on the streets of Moscow and told not to get lost. 8:45 – Antonia reflects on moving to a completely different culture during a time when international relations were tense. 14:15 – Antonia recommends resources for understanding Russian history. 18:15 – Antonia reflects on the Montana side of her family and on the idea of pioneering. 23:00 – Antonia explains how and why she chooses to write.  27:45 – Antonia explores how she puts potentially controversial ideas out into the digital commons as well as explains when she decides to engage with people who disagree with her and comment on her writing.  31:30 – Despite anxiety regarding putting her work out for public viewership, Antonia reflects on why she still writes. 35:30 – Antonia and Ed discuss creating for the sake of continuing to create and the merits of not waiting for permission to create.  43:15 – Antonia explains, as a curious person, how she controls the constant influx of information that can occur through social and informational media. 49:00 – Antonia discusses her book, A Walking Life.  55:15 – Antonia talks about walking as it relates to mental health. 1:07:45 – Antonia’s favorite books about the West.  1:15:30 – Antonia’s parting words of wisdom. ---
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    • 1 hr 25 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
740 Ratings

740 Ratings

esmith3 ,

Thanks Ed!

I got hooked on M&P while listening to a conversation with the guy(forgive me for forgetting his name) who did the Procrastinator’s 50k and I’ve been enjoying it ever since. I really enjoyed the recent convo about durable conservation. Thanks Ed!

KRS D9 ,

Ed’s the Man

Wonderful podcast, Ed’s always a pleasure, gives excellent perspective, seems to bring out the best in his guest. Very disarming in his interview style, helping people feel comfortable to open up. I always chuckle or at minimum smile at least once a podcast. In addition to Ed, the guest are always interesting with much thought and breath related to west, natural and many other things worth talking about. Love Ed and the show, good stuff!

ugarc ,

Just phenomenal

As a fellow native Southerner with a shared love of the West, Mountain and Prairie has become a fixture in my podcast rotation.

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