Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/20/2017
Publication Date: 2/9/2018
Citation: Wilmer, H.N. 2018. Flexibility: Insights from successful ranchers [abstract]. Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts. January 28-February 2, 2018, Sparks, NV.
Technical Abstract: Successful ranching families maintain flexibility in their operations over decades to multi-generational time spans. Interviews and focus groups with ranchers in the Western Great Plains help rangeland scientists understand flexibility, and barriers to flexibility, from a “ranchers’ perspective”. I seek to describe the multiple scales at which flexibility is important to ranchers by analyzing qualitative interviews with 16 cow-calf and cow-calf plus yearling operations, as well as data from a focus group of yearling operators in eastern Colorado and eastern Wyoming. These case studies reveal specific ways that simultaneous climatic, socio-cultural, ecological and economic variability drive ranchers to emphasize flexible, adaptive management approaches, even as rangeland management trends toward intensification. I describe how this flexibility is maintained through social adaptations, ecological knowledge/learning and through technological innovation. Ranchers describe how they seek flexibility in their 1) cultural traditions and ethical decision-making processes, 2) through their grazing management and drought planning and practices, and 3) through social networks/relationships. I critically examine these rancher-reported sources of flexibility in light of the heterogeneity and resilience approaches to rangeland/natural resource management presented in recent literature. These insights into flexibility from successful ranchers ground adaptive management in a real-world context that can inform efforts by rangeland scientists and public land management agencies to promote flexibility in public/private rangelands.