Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SEMIARID RANGELAND ECOSYSTEMS: THE CONSERVATION-PRODUCTION INTERFACE

Location: Rangeland Resources Research

Title: Response to Barnes et al. Letter to the Editor (reference to Bracy Knight et al. 2011 paper in Rangelands)

Authors
item Toombs, Theodore -
item Derner, Justin
item Knight, Bracy -

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 22, 2011
Publication Date: February 14, 2012
Citation: Toombs, T.P., Derner, J.D., Knight, B.K. 2012. Response to Barnes et al. Letter to the Editor (reference to Bracy Knight et al. 2011 paper in Rangelands). Rangelands. 34(1):40-41.

Interpretive Summary: Our original article “Cross-fencing on private US rangelands: financial costs and producer risks” (Bracy Knight et al. 2011 Rangelands 33(2):41-44), demonstrated that producers incur high initial and continuing long-term costs associated with cross-fencing rangelands. While these costs can be partially offset by USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service cost-share programs, increases in stocking rate are needed to maintain break-even economic conditions for the ranch. We recognize, and it has long been known, that fencing can facilitate access to underutilized forage in complex topography and increase grazing management flexibility on the ranch. The use of fencing for these purposes can obviously increase gross income for ranchers—but at what long-term financial and environmental costs? We strongly challenge the assertion by Barnes et al. that intensive management or planned grazing, facilitated by cross-fencing, can benefit both economic livestock production and conservation goals simultaneously. We recognize that this is a commonly held perception among practitioners of intensive management, but scientific evidence is to the contrary. The reality is that are clear tradeoffs between production and conservation goals. In summary, intensive management and its associated infrastructure (including cross-fences) as outlined by Barnes et al. is not a panacea for simultaneously maximizing all potential outcomes from rangelands. There are alternatives. Rangeland professionals need to better understand and consider multiple rangeland ecosystem services and values and recognize that there may be inherent tradeoffs, not just seek to maximize livestock production and soil conservation goals. The accurate accounting of costs in addition to benefits is a key to accomplishing this. At the project level, our analysis helps producers and technical service providers to quantify and communicate the financial costs of fencing, not just its potential benefits. At the national level, it is important for NRCS to consider the cumulative financial and environmental costs of fencing and the practices it facilitates.

Technical Abstract: Our original article “Cross-fencing on private US rangelands: financial costs and producer risks” (Bracy Knight et al. 2011 Rangelands 33(2):41-44), demonstrated that producers incur high initial and continuing long-term costs associated with cross-fencing rangelands. While these costs can be partially offset by USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service cost-share programs, increases in stocking rate are needed to maintain break-even economic conditions for the ranch. We recognize, and it has long been known, that fencing can facilitate access to underutilized forage in complex topography and increase grazing management flexibility on the ranch. The use of fencing for these purposes can obviously increase gross income for ranchers—but at what long-term financial and environmental costs? We strongly challenge the assertion by Barnes et al. that intensive management or planned grazing, facilitated by cross-fencing, can benefit both economic livestock production and conservation goals simultaneously. We recognize that this is a commonly held perception among practitioners of intensive management, but scientific evidence is to the contrary. The reality is that are clear tradeoffs between production and conservation goals. In summary, intensive management and its associated infrastructure (including cross-fences) as outlined by Barnes et al. is not a panacea for simultaneously maximizing all potential outcomes from rangelands. There are alternatives. Rangeland professionals need to better understand and consider multiple rangeland ecosystem services and values and recognize that there may be inherent tradeoffs, not just seek to maximize livestock production and soil conservation goals. The accurate accounting of costs in addition to benefits is a key to accomplishing this. At the project level, our analysis helps producers and technical service providers to quantify and communicate the financial costs of fencing, not just its potential benefits. At the national level, it is important for NRCS to consider the cumulative financial and environmental costs of fencing and the practices it facilitates.

Last Modified: 4/23/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page