Rangelands provide many benefits to society. They produce forage for livestock, prevent soil erosion, and serve as habitat for a variety of wildlife. Rangeland management strategies are needed that promote livestock production while simultaneously enhancing other rangeland benefits. As part of a collaborative effort (University of California-Davis, University of Wyoming, Colorado State University, Texas A&M University), scientists from the Rangeland Resources Research Unit are investigating effects of rangeland management decision-making in the Western Great Plains. They are taking a multi-pronged approach to address complex interactions among ecosystems and people, using a mail survey, ranch visits, and an adaptive grazing experiment. Learn more about each project by browsing project news and project summaries below.
Recent News from the Rangeland Decision-Making Project:
Wyoming rangelands are managed for livestock production as well as a variety of other goals such as wildlife, energy, water, and open space. How management decisions are made on these diverse lands was the central question of the Rangeland Decision-Making Survey, a collaborative effort among the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA), the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, the University of Wyoming and the University of California-Davis. The survey asked WSGA producer members about their goals, ranch characteristics, and management practices. A total of 307 ranchers (50%) responded.
Linking Decision-Making to Outcomes on Wyoming Ranches
Livestock grazing management is a key tool for promoting livestock production while simultaneously enhancing other rangeland benefits. We visited working ranches in southeast Wyoming in order to understand grazing management decision-making and outcomes. Each visit included 1) an interview about grazing management decision-making and responses to drought and 2) measurements of ecosystem services at two locations, the site that has the best forage for livestock production and the site where forage for livestock production has the most room for improvement. Ongoing analyses of interview and monitoring data will link grazing management decisions to ecosystem service provision.
Infographic – Preliminary results highlight differences between ecological sites—sandy sites generally have more forage.
Adaptive Grazing Management Experiment
The Adaptive Grazing Management experiment at the Central Plains Experimental Range (CPER) in Nunn, CO represents a new approach to studying grazing management as a tool for producing multiple benefits. Rather than researchers, a diverse Stakeholder Group will work together to manage ten 320-acre pastures for production and conservation goals. The group is in the process of refining objectives, identifying rangeland management and conservation practices, and choosing monitoring indicators. These will be implemented in an adaptive management framework, allowing the Stakeholder Group as well as researchers to learn from their actions and make necessary adjustments to changing conditions. Outcomes in adaptively grazed pastures will be compared to outcomes in control pastures with traditional grazing management (season-long moderate stocking rate). The experiment will have a trial grazing season in 2013 and will be fully launched in 2014 in all ten pastures.
What would you do? Check out the Adaptive Grazing Management Experiment pasture map and decide for yourself.