By Lisa Romero, BIO5 Institute
The gift from the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation will support work at the UA that will enhance and strengthen the ecological, economic and social viability of ranching.
Agriculture in Arizona is a multi-billion dollar industry, enriching the state's economy and the welfare of many rural communities.
Ensuring the vitality of rangelands and the management of their natural resources is essential for the industry's future success, important for the state's economy, and critical to the livelihoods of more than 2,500 Arizona ranching families.
The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation recognizes ranching's central importance to Arizona and has demonstrated its commitment to the state's rangelands – and the University of Arizona's research and extension efforts in this field – through a $4.5 million endowed gift.
The gift will support the School of Natural Resources and the Environment within the UA's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, or CALS, aiding work that will enhance and strengthen the ecological, economic and social viability of ranching in the 21st century.
"We are thankful for this partnership with the Marley Foundation, which is allowing us to preserve and enhance Arizona's ranches and rangelands, both of which are critical resources to support the economic health and sustainability of our state," said Shane Burgess, dean of CALS.
Patrick Bray, executive vice president of the Arizona Cattle Growers' Association, noted that Arizona's publicly owned rangelands cover more than 8 million acres, and the livestock division of agriculture, alone, boosted the state's economy by more than $3 billion last year.
"We're really pleased to have the School of Natural Resources and the Environment here in our state, focusing on how to feed a growing population and produce new dollars for the economy," Bray said. "I think you would be hard pressed to find some of the expertise we have at the University of Arizona anywhere else in the Southwest-and a lot of it is because we're in such a unique environment because of climate and land ownership."
The Marley Foundation's generous contribution is divided into two components – $1.5 million has already been invested to support the Marley Endowed Chair for Sustainable Rangeland Stewardship, and another $3 million will establish the Marley Program Endowment.
George Ruyle, a professor and extension specialist in rangeland management, is the first recipient of the Marley Endowed Chair for Sustainable Rangeland Stewardship. Ruyle received his doctorate in rangeland science from Utah State and a master's in rangeland management from the University of California, Berkeley.
At the UA, Ruyle leads statewide educational programming efforts to encourage sustainable use of rangelands, primarily in rural communities.
"I am incredibly honored by this recognition and by the potential this funding offers for the future of ranching in Arizona," he said. "Ranching and working landscapes in rural communities are central to planning for growth in this state."
As chair, Ruyle will receive support to further his teaching, research, extension and community outreach in service to Arizona's ranchers and rural communities. The Marley Program Endowment will provide additional funding for increased rangeland monitoring, technical support, graduate student positions in the Rangeland Ecology and Management Program, critical program operations, and the ability to respond quickly to changing needs in the future.
The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation was established in 1990 and primarily helps to fund higher education initiatives, human service organizations, the arts and a zoo in Arizona. The foundation has previously invested in the UA's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, including by providing support for the Marley Building and establishing an endowment for Project CENTRL, a rural leadership initiative of the college.
The University of Arizona Foundation is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to advancing the University of Arizona. Managing an existing asset base of more than $650 million, the UA Foundation has helped generate more than $2 billion in private funding to support the University.