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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #336495

Title: Collaborative adaptive rangeland management fosters management-science partnerships

item Wilmer, Hailey
item Derner, Justin
item FERNANDEZ-GIMENEZ, MARIA - Colorado State University
item Augustine, David
item BRISKE, DAVID - Texas A&M University
item Porensky, Lauren

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/30/2019
Publication Date: 8/9/2018
Citation: Wilmer, H.N., Derner, J.D., Fernandez-Gimenez, M., Augustine, D.J., Briske, D., Porensky, L.M. 2018. Collaborative adaptive rangeland management fosters management-science partnerships. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 71:646-657.

Interpretive Summary: This is a study of the decision-making processes and learning of a group of diverse rangeland stakeholders participating in the Collaborative Adaptive Rangeland Management (CARM) experiment. CARM is a 10-year rangeland management project involving a herd of yearling steers and 10 320 acre shortgrass steppe rangeland pastures managed adaptively, and comparison herd and set of paired pastures managed under a system that is traditional on public lands in eastern Colorado. The project was designed under a framework for rangeland research called collaborative adaptive management (CAM). The idea behind CAM is combine collaboration with adaptive management. CAM promises to bridge gaps between rangeland managers and researchers by actively involving stakeholders in research that uses monitoring data and learning to improve rangeland management practices, especially in very complex systems. In the CARM project, stakeholders from conservation, public agency and ranching backgrounds work with rangeland researchers to set goals and objectives (related to beef production, vegetation structure and composition, and wildlife habitat) and make decisions about grazing and vegetation treatments using biological monitoring data. In this study, we used notes from stakeholder meetings, as well as interviews with the stakeholders, to explore how stakeholder’s experiences and knowledge of rangeland systems influenced their decisions over the first four years (three grazing seasons) of the experiment. We found that the CAM process brought out differences in how stakeholders think rangeland systems work and should be managed, but it did not reconcile these differences in the short term. We make recommendations for future CAM projects. These are that future CAM efforts try to 1) identify and legitimize managers’ different rangeland management experiences and knowledge and 2) involve long-term research commitment to social, as well as experimental, processes that promote trust building among groups over time.

Technical Abstract: Rangelands of the western Great Plains of North America are complex social-ecological systems where management objectives for livestock production, grassland bird conservation and vegetation structure and composition converge. The Collaborative Adaptive Rangeland Management (CARM) experiment is a 10-year project initiated in 2012 that is aimed at fostering science-management partnerships and data-driven rangeland management through a participatory, multi-stakeholder approach. This study evaluates the process of collaborative adaptive management (CAM) within the CARM experiment. Our objectives were to: 1) document how diverse stakeholder experiences and justifications for rangeland management knowledge contribute to the CARM project, 2) evaluate how co-produced knowledge informed management decision-making through three grazing seasons, and 3) explore the implications of participation in the CARM project for rangeland stakeholders. We evaluated decision-making during the first three grazing seasons of the project as representatives from government agencies, conservation non-governmental organizations, ranchers, and interdisciplinary researchers worked within the CAM framework to 1) prioritize desired ecosystem services, 2) determine objectives for testable hypotheses, 3) determine stocking rates and criteria for livestock movement among pastures, and vegetation treatments, and 4) select monitoring techniques that would inform decision-making. We analyzed meeting transcripts, interviews, and focus group data related to stakeholder group decision-making. Our findings indicate that stakeholders’ diverse justifications for knowledge influence the capacity of a diverse group of stakeholders to interpret and apply co-produced knowledge. The CAM process serves to make visible, but not reconcile differences between, stakeholders’ rangeland management knowledges. Stakeholder subgroups act upon an understanding that not collaborating has risks for their real-world objectives for rangeland management. We suggest future CAM efforts should: 1) identify and legitimize managers’ different rangeland management experiences and knowledge and 2) involve long-term research commitment to social, as well as experimental, processes that promote trust building among groups over time.