COS 25-4 - Wyoming farmer perspectives on land management and ecosystem services

Tuesday, August 8, 2017: 9:00 AM
E143-144, Oregon Convention Center
Randa Jabbour and Zoe Nelson, University of Wyoming

Agricultural land is a major component of Wyoming’s open spaces: 93% of the privately owned land in this state is classified as agriculture. In addition to crop and range habitats, farmers and ranchers also manage a suite of non-crop habitats and structures. The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment provides a framework to categorize ecosystem services as follows: provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services. Ecosystem services provided may vary according to farm type, location, scale, and priorities of the manager. We evaluated the ecosystem services provided in agricultural landscapes in Wyoming through interviews with both producers and the agriculture and conservation professionals that work with them. We interviewed 8 producers, including bison and cattle ranchers and farmers growing a diversity of crops. Agriculture and conservation professionals interviewed included 4 University Extension Educators, 4 County Weed & Pest professionals, 4 NRCS district conservationists, and 1 scientist from the Nature Conservancy. All interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded for themes.


Farmers and ranchers discussed management approaches for a diversity of habitats, including cropland, rangeland, pasture, forest, streams (including adjacent riparian habitat), and pivot corners (the unmanaged corners that surround center-pivot irrigated fields). Cultural and historical importance of their properties emerged – several producers were from multigenerational farming families and used their land to preserve historical homesteads and monuments important to Wyoming history. Agriculture and conservation professionals discussed both the benefits and challenges to managing non-crop habitats. Benefits mentioned included support for wildlife, fish, and pollinators, and positive contributions to water quality. Challenges included the facilitation of noxious weed, and perhaps other pest, dispersal, as well as risky interactions resulting from cattle grazing in streams and potential impacts on water quality. Agricultural professional responses varied widely depending on both where they were located in the state (for example, Teton County has different habitat types, agricultural operations, tourism, and so forth compared to SE Wyoming) and which agency they worked with. NRCS professionals were most likely to speak about soil and water related issues, County Weed & Pest professionals highlighted pest management related issues, and Extension professionals were less targeted in their topics given their broad area of responsibility.