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Wyoming People

Urbigkit captures the beauty of ag

Big Piney – “The American cowboy is the same as the Spaniard goat herder, the same as the Maasai cattle boy,” says Cat Urbigkit. “They are people who work with livestock for their livelihood.

“I’ve been fortunate to meet livestock producers where I’ve travelled. We have a lot of similarities, like the same hand gestures when working with livestock.”

Urbigkit ranches with her husband Jim near Big Piney. She has compiled a traveling exhibit, Portraits of Pastorlism, from her photos of people who live and work with livestock in the American West, Nepal, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Spain, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Beauty of ag

“I’ve had this idea brewing for almost a decade,” Urbigkit explains. “Using art to reach a non-traditional audience and show the general public the beauty of agriculture – specifically the beauty of people who work and live with livestock. I’ve been capturing images of those faces around the globe – on our rangelands in Wyoming and in Europe and Central Asia.”

The black-and-white photos stem from eight years of travel. The exhibit contains 20 images that include the story of the pastoralist and illuminates the challenges faced by people whose cultures involve the seasonal movement with livestock herds.

Urbigkit will be traveling to Africa in July 2013 to obtain the photos needs to complete the exhibit. She will be visiting Lesotho, a small country completely surrounded by its neighbor, South Africa. 

Interconnected world

“The cowboy on horseback in Wyoming is conducting the same activity as the Lesotho cattle boy,” Urbigkit says, “and the same holds true for various people and cultures throughout the globe. The exhibit will showcase the importance of seasonal movements of people and livestock and the threats to continuing this practice.” 

She continues, “My goal is to promote public support for maintaining this sustainable use of natural resources, while recognizing and treasuring the human value of a close association with the land.”

Conservation refugees are people who have been separated from their traditional way of life and lands in the name of conservation.

“Nearly every continent on the globe has conservation refugees,” Urbigkit says. “Here in Wyoming, ranchers have grazed on public lands for over 100 years to be moved off for conservation of wildlife habitat. The Maasai people in Tanzania and Kenya are also being blocked from using their traditional water holes because of national parks being established.”

Global transhumance, the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures, is the theme of the non-fiction book that Urbigkit published in October 2012 titled Shepherds of Coyote Rocks: Public Lands, Private Herds and the Natural World.

The Portraits of Pastoralism exhibit will begin its tour in Big Piney on Sept. 18, 2013 at the Green River Valley Museum. It is booked six months out in appearances throughout Wyoming, as well as nationally. 

Melissa Hemken is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..