PS 5-54 - Ranch sustainability assessment:  Integrating ecological, social, and economic monitoring information with a business planning process

Monday, August 8, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Kristie Maczko , University of Wyoming, Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable, Fort Collins, CO
Stanley F. Hamilton , Idaho Dept. of Lands (retired), Boise, ID
John A. Tanaka , Department of Renewable Resources, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
Cindy Garretson-Weibel , Agribusiness, Wyoming Business Council, Cheyenne, WY
Michael Smith , Department of Renewable Resources, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
John E. Mitchell , USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO
Charles Stanley , USDA-NRCS-Cntsc, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Fort Worth, TX
Gene Fults , USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Portland, OR
Doug Powell , Bureau of Land Management (retired), Washington, DC
Chuck Quimby , Rocky Mountain Region, USDA Forest Service, CO
Dick Loper , Wyoming State Grazing Board, Lander, WY
Larry Bryant , Bryant Ranches, Herndon, VA
J.K. "Rooter" Brite Jr. , JA Ranch, Bowie, TX

Background/Question/Methods

Monitoring condition of soil, water, vegetation, wildlife, livestock production, and associated economics to align rancher’s business plan goals with capability of the ranch’s rangeland resources can improve viability and sustainability of family ranches.  Keeping ranchers on the land impacts well-being of rangeland-dependent communities and supports open space conservation, to the benefit of communities and the land.  With this in mind, the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable (SRR), the Wyoming Business Council (WBC), Wyoming State Grazing Board (WSGB), University of Wyoming extension, Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI), USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and several ranchers developed a process to integrate social, ecological and economic ranch monitoring with business planning.  This assessment framework focuses a 17-indicator ranch monitoring framework for ecological, economic and social sustainability. 

Indicators are attributes that can be directly measured and assessed to detect changes and trends.  SRR ranch assessment indicators address: soil stability and bare ground; availability of surface water and water volume; species composition of plant communities, invasive species, fire, and riparian areas; wildlife populations, domestic meat produced and harvestable material production; profit from livestock production and each product produced, as well as visitor use information for applicable recreational enterprises; technical assistance and continuing education received, and protection of special values.  

Results/Conclusions

The SRR ranch sustainability assessment framework has been reviewed by land management agency personnel, university extension specialists, producer groups, and environmental groups through a series of symposia and workshops.  The process is featured in a sustainable ranch management guidebook available online at http://sustainable.rangelands.org/ranchassessment/guidebook.pdf.

This ranch assessment framework emphasizes use of ranch monitoring to inform goals elaborated in ranchers’ business plans and conservation plans.  University of Wyoming, GLCI and WSGB staffs are working with ranchers to implement ecological ranch sustainability monitoring using the 17 SRR ranch assessment indicators.  The WBC provides ranchers with a detailed guide to developing a ranch business plan and also works with ranchers to help with creation of a formal business plan for their ranch.  The SRR process for evaluation of rangeland ecosystem services as alternative income streams for operation diversification has also been incorporated into the ranch sustainability assessment process.  While ranchers have successfully implemented monitoring and planning advocated by this framework, the most informative results will become available in the long term as trends in ecological, social, and economic elements of ranch sustainability become evident.

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