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Research Project: Socio-economic Assessment of Great Basin Livestock Production Systems

Location: Northwest Watershed Research Center

Project Number: 2052-21500-001-006-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 13, 2023
End Date: Oct 1, 2025

Establish an adaptation capacity index for the northern Great Basin region to apply measures of perceived risk, responsive behavior, and incentivization for integrated analyses with ecological measures associated with invasive annual grasses in evolving physical/climate conditions.

This scope of work will pursue an integrated analyses of ranching operations and resource decision-making within the context of a landscape resistance and resilience (RR) matrix. Measurements of social processes and decision-making complexity within this context will focus on four categories: 1) community capitals framework; 2) place attachment; 3) intergenerational connectivity; and 4) social risk perceptions. A community capitals framework enables a comprehensive assessment of the strengths and weaknesses system-level assets in terms of adapting to the complexity of factors affecting the system. Place attachment measures investigate how and why personal values, motives, and inclinations are affected by landscape geographies and experiences. Ranch owner and management succession remains one of the most challenging dilemmas for landscape and community continuity over time. Philosophical differences can challenge smooth transitions between generations. Finally, how ranch operators perceive risk management scenarios within their business, environment, and social worlds affects decision complexity and results. Data collection for our integrated analyses will involve a series of semi-structured human interviews conducted in the northern Great Basin. The experimental design will include a two-dimensional, inductive approach to catalyze inputs from individuals as well as group processes. First, an initial cluster sampling approach will identify rural community areas by category within the invasive annual grass region of the northern Great Basin. Use of secondary data will develop a profile of community areas for ongoing site and respondent selection. Two geographies within the overall region will be selected to represent RR matrix categories across invasive annual grass zones, likely aligning to elevation contexts. An estimated 25-30 interviews will be administered within each identified geography (50-60 total), concentrating on livestock producers, community leaders, conservation representatives, and agricultural industry stakeholders. The research team will implement standard approaches for interview formats using a semi-structured interview guide and in accordance with human assurances protocols. To advance group-scale input, the project will also design a focus group in each of the sub-geographies in Year 4 to evaluate preliminary interview results and advance a collective participatory mapping exercise to provide input on lag time and scale difference challenges. Interview and focus group discussion data will be digitally recorded, transcribed to text, de-identified, archived, and curated by standards set forth in the University of Idaho Institutional Review Board guidelines to approve the data collection and management. Data outputs that can be fully summarized and anonymized will also be shared publicly through public or professional presentations, annual reporting, and refereed journal manuscripts; access to raw data files remains restricted to researchers with Certified Human Assurances training, per National Institutes of Health courses and standards.