NR  Vol.4 No.1 , March 2013
Characterizing Wyoming Ranching Operations: Natural Resource Goals, Management Practices and Information Sources

Spanning 12 million hectares, Wyoming rangelands produce food and provide other vital ecosystem services. However, the decision-making process of the ranchers who steward these lands is complex and poorly understood. In cooperation with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA)—a predominant agricultural organization in the state—we asked WSGA producer members about their goals, ranching operation characteristics, and management practices via a mail survey. A total of 307 ranchers (50%) responded to the survey. Livestock production and forage production were the top management goals, with ecosystem characteristics that support these goals (e.g., soil health, water quality) tied for second. Survey respondents’ ranches had a median size of 4220 hectares, but ranged up to 185,000 hectares; 71% of operations included public land and 60% included private leased land. The majority of reporting operations grazed cow-calf pairs (91%), with a median of 260 pairs per ranch. Most survey respondents managed grazing by moving 1 - 5 herds of livestock (84%) among two or more pastures (92%) after three months of grazing or less (87%). Most operations (74%) included other resource use activities, with extractive recreation (e.g., hunting; 55%), conventional energy development (23%), and other agricultural production (20%) most common. Survey respondents primarily got information about grazing management from other ranchers (97%), although they preferred to receive information through print publications (69%). Wyoming ranching operations are diverse, which may represent a challenge for policy makers designing programs and incentives to increase production of food and ecosystem services. However, efforts that focus on livestock and forage production and supporting ecosystem functions are likely to find synergies with ongoing management goals and strategies. A multi-pronged outreach and education approach using several different media sources may be most effective as new policies and management practices become available.

Cite this paper: E. Kachergis, J. Derner, L. Roche, K. Tate, M. Lubell, R. Mealor and J. Magagna, "Characterizing Wyoming Ranching Operations: Natural Resource Goals, Management Practices and Information Sources," Natural Resources, Vol. 4 No. 1, 2013, pp. 45-54. doi: 10.4236/nr.2013.41005.

[1]   K. M. Havstad, D. P. C. Peters, R. Skaggs, J. R. Brown, B. T. Bestelmeyer, E. L. Fredrickson, J. E. Herrick and J. Wright, “Ecological Services to and from Rangelands of the United States,” Ecological Economics, Vol. 64, No. 2, 2007, pp. 261-288. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2007.08.005

[2]   Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, “Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis,” World Resources Institute, Washington DC, 2005.

[3]   D. D. Briske, “Rangeland Conservation Effects Assessment Project Executive Summary: The Next Generation of Conservation Practice Standards,” Conservation Effects Assessment Program Review, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington DC, 2011.

[4]   J. H. Goldstein, G. Caldarone, T. K. Duarte, D. Ennaanay, N. Hannahs, G. Mendoza, S. Polasky, S. Wolny and G. C. Daily, “Integrating Ecosystem-Service Tradeoffs into Land-Use Decisions,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 109, No. 19, 2012, pp. 7565-7570. doi:10.1073/pnas.1201040109

[5]   E. Nelson, G. Mendoza, J. Regetz, S. Polasky, H. Tallis, R. Cameron, K. M. Chan, G. C. Daily, J. Goldstein, P. M. Kareiva, E. Lonsdorf, R. Naidoo, T. H. Ricketts and R. Shaw, “Modeling Multiple Ecosystem Services, Biodiversity Conservation, Commodity Production, and Tradeoffs at Landscape Scales,” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2009, pp. 4-11. doi:10.1890/080023

[6]   USDA NASS, “Wyoming 2012 Agicultural Statistics,” USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, Cheyenne, 2012.

[7]   M. W. Brunson and L. Huntsinger, “Ranching as a Conservation Strategy: Can Old Ranchers Save the New West?” Rangeland Ecology & Management, Vol. 61, No. 2, 2008, pp. 137-147. doi:10.2111/07-063.1

[8]   United States General Accounting Office, “Endangered Species Act: Information on Species Protection on Nonfederal Lands,” 1994.

[9]   J. D. Maestas, R. L. Knight and W. C. Gilgert, “Biodiversity across a Rural Land-Use Gradient,” Conservation Biology, Vol. 17, No. 5, 2003, pp. 1425-1434. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.2003.02371.x

[10]   USDA NASS, “Wyoming State and County Data, 2007 Census of Agriculture,” USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, Cheyenne, 2007.

[11]   P. K. Thornton, “Livestock Production: Recent Trends, Future Prospects,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London: Series B, Biological Sciences, Vol. 365, No. 1554, 2010, pp. 2853-2867. doi:10.1098/rstb.2010.0134

[12]   J. D. Derner, W. K. Lauenroth, P. Stapp and D. J. Augustine, “Livestock as Ecosystem Engineers for Grassland Bird Habitat in the Western Great Plains of North America,” Rangeland Ecology & Management, Vol. 62, No. 2, 2009, pp. 111-118. doi:10.2111/08-008.1

[13]   D. J. Augustine and J. D. Derner, “Disturbance Regimes and Mountain Plover Habitat in Shortgrass Steppe: Large Herbivore Grazing Does Not Substitute for Prairie Dog Grazing or Fire,” The Journal of Wildlife Management, Vol. 76, No. 4, 2012, pp. 721-728. doi:10.1002/jwmg.334

[14]   S. R. Archer, K. W. Davies, T. E. Fulbright, B. McDaniel, B. Wilcox and K. I. Predick, “Brush Management as a Rangeland Conservation Strategy: A Critical Evaluation,” Conservation Effects Assessment Program Review, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington DC, 2011.

[15]   K. L. Olenick, U. P. Kreuter and J. R. Conner, “Texas Landowner Perceptions Regarding Ecosystem Services and Cost-Sharing Land Management Programs,” Ecological Economics, Vol. 53, No. 2, 2005, pp. 247-260. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2004.09.016

[16]   S. Engel, S. Pagiola and S. Wunder, “Designing Payments for Environmental Services in Theory and Practice: An Overview of the Issues,” Ecological Economics, Vol. 65, No. 4, 2008, pp. 663-674. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2008.03.011

[17]   P. Kristjanson, R. S. Reid, N. Dickson, W. C. Clark, D. Romney, R. Puskur, S. Macmillan and D. Grace, “Linking International Agricultural Research Knowledge with Action for Sustainable Development,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 106, No. 13, 2009, pp. 5047-5052. doi:10.1073/pnas.0807414106

[18]   D. A. Dillman, “Mail and Internet Surveys: The Tailored Design Method,” John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, 2007.

[19]   D. L. Coppock and A. H. Birkenfeld, “Use of Livestock and Range Management Practices in Utah,” Journal of Range Management, Vol. 52, No. 1, 1999, pp. 7-18. doi:10.2307/4003486

[20]   D. L. Coppock, “Ranching and Multiyear Droughts in Utah: Production Impacts, Risk Perceptions, and Changes in Preparedness,” Rangeland Ecology & Management, Vol. 64, No. 6, 2011, pp. 607-618. doi:10.2111/REM-D-10-00113.1

[21]   R. C. Rowan and L. D. White, “Regional Differences among Texas Rangeland Operators,” Journal of Range Management, Vol. 47, No. 5, 1994, pp. 338-343. doi:10.2307/4002326

[22]   L. Huntsinger, M. Johnson and M. Stafford, “A Resurvey of Oak Woodland Landowners: 1985, 1992, and 2004,” Proceedings of the 6th Symposium on Oak Woodlands: California’s Oaks, Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Opportunities,” Rohnert Park, 9-12 October 2006, pp. 57-67.

[23]   R. R. J. McAllister, N. Abel, C. J. Stokes and I. J. Gordon, “Australian Pastoralists in Time and Space: The Evolution of a Complex Adaptive System,” Ecology and Society, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2006, p. 41.

[24]   C. A. Kennedy and M. W. Brunson, “Creating a Culture of Innovation in Ranching: A Study of Outreach and Cooperation in West-Central Colorado,” Rangelands, Vol. 29, No. 3, 2007, pp. 35-40. doi:10.2111/1551-501X(2007)29[35:CACOII]2.0.CO;2

[25]   E. A. Didier and M. W. Brunson, “Adoption of Range Management Innovations by Utah Ranchers,” Rangeland Ecology & Management, Vol. 57, No. 4, 2004, pp. 330-336. doi:10.2111/1551-5028(2004)057[0330:AORMIB]2.0.CO;2

[26]   S. D. Fuhlendorf and D. M. Engle, “Application of the Fire-Grazing Interaction to Restore a Shifting Mosaic on Tallgrass Prairie,” Journal of Applied Ecology, Vol. 41, No. 4, 2004, pp. 604-614.

[27]   C. W. Hanselka, A. McGinty, B. S. Rector, R. C. Rowan and L. D. White, “Grazing and Brush Management on Texas Rangelands: An Analysis of Management Decisions,” Texas Agricultural Extension Service, College Station, 1990.

[28]   G. Bortolussi, J. G. McIvor, J. J. Hodgkinson, S. G. Coffey and C. R. Holmes, “The Northern Australia Beef Industry, a Snapshot. 4. Condition and Management of Natural Resources,” Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, Vol. 45, No. 9, 2005, pp. 1109-1120. doi:10.1071/EA03262

[29]   A. J. Ash, and D. M. Stafford Smith, “Pastoralism in Tropical Rangelands: Seizing the Opportunity to Change,” The Rangeland Journal, Vol. 25, No. 2, 2003, pp. 113-127. doi:10.1071/RJ03010

[30]   H. Gosnell, J. H. Haggerty and W. R. Travis, “Ranchland Ownership Change in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 1990-2001: Implications for Conservation,” Society & Natural Resources, Vol. 19, No. 8, 2006, pp. 743-758. doi:10.1080/08941920600801181

[31]   R. D. Mealor, P. J. Meiman, A. L. Hild, D. T. Taylor and J. S. Thompson, “New Rangeland Residents in Wyoming? A Survey of Exurban Landowners,” Rangeland Ecology & Management, Vol. 64, No. 5, 2011, pp. 479-487. doi:10.2111/REM-D-09-00120.1