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Title: Community-engaged research builds a natureculture of hope on multifunctional North America Great Plains rangelands

item Wilmer, Hailey
item Porensky, Lauren
item FERNANDEZ-GIMENEZ, MARIA - Colorado State University
item Derner, Justin
item RITTEN, JOHN - University Of Wyoming
item Peck, Dannele

Submitted to: Social Sciences
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/2/2019
Publication Date: 1/28/2019
Citation: Wilmer, H.N., Porensky, L.M., Fernandez-Gimenez, M., Derner, J.D., Ritten, J., Peck, D.E. 2019. Community-engaged research builds a natureculture of hope on multifunctional North America Great Plains rangelands. Social Sciences. 8(1):22.

Interpretive Summary: Natural resource management must now address changing demands for biodiversity conservation and agricultural production. However, managers have little control over climatic, economic, social and land use change at broader scales, and this can be discouraging. This study takes an in-depth look at the social dimensions of the Collaborative Adaptive Rangeland Management (CARM) project, a long-term participatory grazing and rangeland management project ongoing at the Central Plains Experimental Range. CARM brings ranchers, conservation groups and public agencies together with researchers to manage an experimental ranch. Specifically, the study looks at the process by which stakeholders involved in CARM revised the management objectives for the project. We trace how the objectives for vegetation composition and wildlife conservation changed. We find that land managers developed an increased sense of place, and a sense of hope, during this process. We discuss how having place-specific knowledge allowed them to set realistic and achievable objectives. We also discuss how hope, the thought process of effective goal setting, helped them deal with the uncontrollable biophysical and social aspects of conservation management. We discuss how a sense of place and hope can enhance management for agricultural production and conservation on rangelands beyond the CARM project.

Technical Abstract: In the North American Great Plains, multigenerational ranches and grassland biodiversity are threatened by dynamic and uncertain climatic, economic, and land use processes. Working apart, agricultural and conservation communities face doubtful prospects of reaching their individual goals of sustainability. Rangeland research could serve a convening platform, but experimental studies seldom involve local manager communities. The Collaborative Adaptive Rangeland Management (CARM) project, however, has undertaken a ten-year, ranch-level, participatory research effort to explore how community-engaged research can increase our understanding of conservation and ranching goals. Using ethnographic data and the natureculture concept—which recognizes the inseparability of ecological relationships that are shaped by both biological and social processes—we examine the CARM team’s process of revising their management objectives (2016-2018). In CARM’s early days, the team established locally-relevant, multifunctional goals and objectives. As team members’ understanding of the ecosystem improved, they revised objectives using more spatially, temporally and ecologically specific information. During the revision process, they challenged conventional ecological theories and grappled with barriers to success outside of their control. The emerging CARM natureculture, based on a sense of place and grounded in hope, provides insights into effective community-engaged research to enhance rangeland livelihood and conservation outcomes.