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Characterizing Wyoming Ranching Operations: Natural Resource Goals, Management Practices and Information Sources

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DOI: 10.4236/nr.2013.41005    2,558 Downloads   4,678 Views   Citations

ABSTRACT

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.

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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.

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