A Range Management Curriculum and Participatory Planning Project for the Tohono O'odham Nation

Final Report for SW02-051

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $99,263.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Maria Fernandez-Gimenez
Colorado State University
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Project Information


The unique social, cultural, and historical circumstances of livestock grazing on the Tohono O’odham Nation require that concepts from Rangeland Science be tailored to the specific biophysical and cultural landscapes on the Tohono O’odham Nation. We believe that resource management is most effective when local resource users are directly involved in management planning and implementation. To advance our goal of better stewardship using a culturally specific, community-based approach, we propose a project combining the creation of educational opportunities through the development and implementation of a rangeland curriculum with the application of concepts from rangeland science through a participatory planning process.

Project Objectives:

Objective 1: To develop and implement a Tohono O’odham range management curriculum that incorporates both science and traditional knowledge, and which reflects the specific social, cultural, political, economic and environmental contexts of livestock husbandry and range management on the Tohono O’odham Nation. This will be done using a collaborative approach involving O’odham livestock owners, natural resource professionals, educators and community members.

Objective 2: To empower livestock producers and other community members to develop and implement range management plans for their communities by expanding the existing participatory rangeland planning pilot project to additional districts.


The Tohono O’odham Nation spans 2.8 million acres of Sonoran desert habitat, encompassing much of the traditional homeland of the Tohono O’odham people. Traditionally the Tohono O’odham farmed desert washes, gathered wild foods, and hunted for subsistence. Following the introduction of cattle and horses by Spanish missionaries, cattle raising was incorporated into O’odham culture and has for several centuries been an important feature of O’odham society (Woodbury and Woodbury 1962, Bauer 1971, Fontana 1976, Kozak and Lopez 1999). Livestock husbandry on the Nation is a mixed blessing. A source of cash, subsistence, food for community feasts and ceremonies, and, historically, social status and political clout, cattle have also had devastating impacts on the Nation’s desert grasslands and shrublands, and have fed conflicts over land, water, and animals, within and between communities. The health of many O’odham cattle is poor and lack of management makes selective breeding for genetic improvement virtually impossible. Consequently, when animals are sold off the reservation, producers receive the “Indian cattle” price, several cents per pound lower than the going market price. There have been a few small-scale successes in implementing rotational grazing and improved animal management, such as the Tribal Herd Ranch and several livestock associations (Bauer 1971). Recently, however, there has been a renewed commitment to rangeland management on the part of the Tohono O’odham Nation, and a growing interest in range management among many communities on the reservation.

In 2001, several events set the stage for a change in producers’ and communities’ attitudes towards range management, and their willingness to become active stewards of their rangelands. These events were the revival of the Tohono O’odham Nation Coordinated Resource Management Planning (CRMP) group (a multi-agency collaborative planning effort); the establishment of the Nation’s Rangeland Conservation and Management Program under a 638 contract from the Bureau of Indian Affairs ; and the implementation of a pilot participatory rangeland planning project in Sif Oidak District. The pilot project attracted attention from several other districts, and led to requests for similar educational programs and technical assistance. This WSARE project was developed in response to these requests, particularly the demand for more educational programs that address the ecological principles of rangeland ecology, grazing management, rangeland monitoring, and animal health, management and marketing. To meet these needs we proposed an integrated project comprised of curriculum development and implementation through field workshops and coached rangeland planning using a participatory planning model.

Historical Background
Livestock have been present in both the physical and cultural landscape of the Tohono O’odham for more than three hundred years, beginning with the arrival of Father Eusbio Francisco Kino in 1698 (Joseph et al. 1949). Following the death of Father Kino, hunt leaders included cattle along with deer and desert bighorn sheep in their pursuit for big game. Gradually the role of hunt chief transformed into the position of roundup boss, organizing gathers of feral livestock for feasts, funerals, weddings, and pilgrimages (Xavier 1938, Fontana 1976). Because livestock have been managed in accordance with traditional O’odham value systems, a distinct livestock management strategy has emerged on the Nation. Animals are controlled locally by elected roundup bosses from each village. The roundup bosses oversee all livestock operations within the village and are expected to represent their village’s interests when multi-village roundups occur. Most O’odham rangelands are open range, with animals individually owned, grazing on common lands. In the early 1930s, the Nation was fenced into nine separate grazing districts, many of which encompass several hundred thousand acres and are absent of any significant crossfencing (Lewis 1994). This early initiative was the first attempt to formally manage rangelands on O’odham land. Although the plan was implemented at the request of O’odham stockmen, it was actualized without the consultation of local producers. Many of the district fences split traditional territories or excluded traditional users from their customary use areas, causing economic hardship, provoking resentment towards government officials and their policies, and creating animosities between neighbors. This episode solidified O’odham beliefs that government rangeland management initiatives consistently fail because of the tendency to exclude the intended beneficiaries during the planning period. Subsequently, the BIA managed the Nation’s rangelands for many years, focusing on the development of wells, dams and small stockponds or charcos, and fencing small community pastures (Bauer 1971, Simpson and Young 1973). One legacy of the BIA era is a culture of dependency among livestock producers, who are accustomed to having the agency provide services without producers having to demonstrate capacity for management or share in the cost. In addition, most past policies have neglected to incorporate local methods for consensus building and allocation of shared resources such as water and grazing areas.

Prior to the establishment of the Papago Reservation in 1916, O’odham lands were heavily grazed by Anglo, Mexican, and Pima ranchers. The desert grasslands were seriously degraded, and after the expulsion of outside livestock, conditions were exacerbated by drought and heavy concentrations of cattle and horses on the few remaining waters and productive grasslands (Lewis 1994). It has now become apparent to many districts that the current ecological conditions, in part the legacy of these past abuses, are not improving under existing management approaches. Many livestock owners, the NRCS, BIA, and Nation’s Natural Resources Department believe that plant communities of high forage value have disappeared from many parts of the Nation, erosion has accelerated, and mesquite densities have increased. Some are concerned about the increase in exotic species such as bufflegrass. Livestock owners have spoken out about the frustrations they encounter trying to improve their herds under the present management structure. Resting rangelands is not feasible because of the lack of coordinated management among livestock owners and the absence of necessary infrastructure (fences). Apprehension towards fencing remains strong due to the district fencing in the 1930’s. Attempts to organize livestock associations, institute formal management plans, and implement demonstration projects have met with limited success (Bauer 1971). The Nation’s efforts to develop rangeland codes and ordinances have proceeded slowly. Many of these initiatives have met with passive resistance or implementations have been short lived due to the absence of local participation during the planning phase.

Related and Current Work in the Area
Rangeland Education on Indian Nations
Relatively little accessible information documents past or current range management education efforts with Indian Nations. Most available work on range management in Indian Country takes the form of ethnographic and historical accounts of grazing and livestock management on reservations (Xavier 1938, Joseph et al. 1949, Woodbury and Woodbury 1962, Getty 1963, Bauer 1971, Norvelle 1990, Lewis 1994, Kozak and Lopez 1999). The only educational materials on range management designed specifically for American Indian audiences that we know of are Bingham et al’s Living from Livestock (Bingham and Lee 1984), a manual for Navajo ranchers with a “holistic resource management” orientation, and the certified rancher curriculum recently developed by the Navajo Newlands administration (Norm Lowe, personal communication). University of California Cooperative Extension has developed an ecology and natural resource management curriculum for Indian natural resource workers (Harris and Cox 1997). We identified two current multi-Tribe extension education initiatives in Arizona related to livestock production: a SARE-funded project on drought management, and a project that aims to educate producers about the benefits of increasing the productivity of individual animals while reducing overall stocking rates. This project dovetailed with each of these programs without duplicating their efforts. Neither of these projects develops a self-contained curriculum, nor do they engage producers in a hands-on planning process through which they can apply their knowledge.

Participatory Planning and Research
Participatory natural resource planning and related approaches such as participatory rural appraisal (PRA), seek to involve resource users directly in identifying goals and articulating and evaluating management alternatives (Chambers 1983, 1994). These approaches have been widely applied to international development of natural resources and agriculture (Jackson and Ingles 1998, Margolius and Salafsky 1998), but are less well known in the United States, although the burgeoning movement for collaborative planning for public land management could be viewed as participatory planning.

Participatory research is more than a research methodology; it is a philosophy of creating knowledge through dialogue and action (Hall 2001, Reason and Bradbury 2001).
Participatory research is a power-sharing process, in which the researcher acts more as a facilitator of knowledge-sharing than an ‘expert’ responsible for finding solutions to isolated problems. There are far fewer published empirical studies of participatory research in the natural resource fields than in applied social science fields, such as education and public health. By far, most of the existing participatory research literature in natural resource management comes from research conducted outside the U.S., and most of it stems from the popularity of participatory international development projects beginning in the 1980s. In Australia, England, and the U.S., participatory research has been used to develop and evaluate adaptive management models, which attempt to integrate the knowledge of a diversity of stakeholders to include different ideas of ecosystem function, monitoring, and management (Ison and Russell 1999, Pretty and Frank 2000, Pound et al. 2003). Other studies have used the participatory process to better understand the social dynamics of collaborative management, and often seek to provide practical information in support of such partnerships. This project applies the principles of participatory research and evaluates the contributions of a participatory approach to building social capital on the Tohono O’odham Nation.

Social Capital
In the field of economic development, the theory of social capital explains this failure as a result of underestimating the importance of social processes in accomplishing any economic, social or political goal (Putnam 2000). A relatively broad definition of social capital is “the institutions, relationships, attitudes, and values that govern interactions among people and contribute to economic and social development” ((Grootaert and van Bastelaer 2002), 2).

In this study, we rely on Woolcock’s (1998) qualitative framework, which describes four forms of social capital based on levels of Autonomy and Embeddedness each at the micro (individual) and macro (organizational) levels. Linkage is an individual’s autonomy from his/her community based on relationships with people outside that community. Organizational Integrity is an organization’s autonomy from other organizations and communities based on organizational competence, coherence, and capacity among individuals within that organization. Integration is an individual’s embeddedness within his/her community based on relationships with people within the community. Synergy is an organization’s or community’s embeddedness in society as a result of institutional relationships among communities and organizations. According to this theory, a balance of the four forms of social capital is important for optimal realization of any economic, political, or social endeavor, and thus this framework can be used to identify the relative strengths of the four forms of social capital in a particular setting in order to determine where development efforts would be most effective (Woolcock 1998).

We chose a social capital framework to analyze the social impact of participatory research rather than a framework specific to communal resource systems, such as Ostrom’s (Ostrom 1990) design principles for enduring common property regimes, because evidence from the literature suggests that Ostrom’s principles of bounded space and well-defined community groups are too constraining to fit the dynamic realities of communally managed rangeland systems (Sithole 2003). In contrast, the concept of social capital focuses on the relationships that enable “mobility, flexibility, and reciprocity—features that have characterized sustainable pastoral management institutions for centuries” (Fernandez-Gimenez 2002, 74).

Ecology & Management of Nonequilibrium Rangelands
The past decade has witnessed a significant shift in thinking about the dynamics of plant-herbivore interactions in arid and highly variable rangelands (Westoby et al. 1989, Behnke et al. 1993, Ellis 1994). The emergence of so-called non-equilibrium theories of rangeland dynamics has had a profound influence on policy debates around pastoral development in the international arena (Scoones 1994), but has had less direct impact on rangeland policy and management in the USA. Similarly, most of the research seeking to test non-equilibrium theory has been conducted in Africa and Central Asia, not in North America. In this project, we examine the applicability of equilibrium and non-equilibrium models of rangeland vegetation dynamics to Sonoran desert uplands on the Tohono O’odham Nation, Arizona, USA, a site whose socio-ecological context has much in common with arid pastoral ecosystems of the developing world.

The conventional equilibrium model of rangeland vegetation dynamics was developed in temperate regions where climate is relatively predictable (Clements 1916). Under this model, plant-herbivore interactions are recognized as important drivers of the system and can be manipulated to manage forage production. When grazing intensity increases, there is a corresponding decrease in vegetation and the resulting competition for limited food resources negatively influences livestock populations. Conversely, reducing herbivory increases the production of plant biomass and decreases food competition among herbivores (Stoddart et al. 1975, Holecheck et al. 2001). Species composition in a given plant community is affected by the duration and timing of grazing and the number and class of livestock in an area (Sampson 1919, 1923).

Over the past twenty years researchers working primarily in Africa and Australia have developed new models for understanding vegetation dynamics in arid and semi-arid rangelands (Ellis and Swift 1988, Westoby et al. 1989). One alternative view recognizes that in environments characterized by highly variable and unpredictable periods of precipitation and drought, biotic factors such as herbivory have relatively little influence on vegetation productivity or species composition. Rather, stochastic events such as sporadic rainfall and droughts have the greatest influence on vegetation, which in turn affects livestock productivity (Ellis and Swift 1988, Behnke et al. 1993, Ellis 1994). Because of the strong abiotic influences on vegetation, grazing is thought to have little impact on vegetation productivity or composition in these systems. Vegetation production is too dynamic for livestock numbers to track forage. When unmanaged by humans, livestock are regulated by the direct impacts of climate on forage availability rather than the competition for forage among grazers, and mortality rates are independent of livestock densities.

Several studies have been conducted in the past decade that attempt to test this theory, focusing primarily in pastoral regions of Africa (Behnke et al. 1993, Turner 1998, Ward et al. 1998, Fynn and O’Connor 2000, Oba et al. 2000, Ward and Ngairorue 2000, Leggett et al. 2003) and Central Asia (Cincotta et al. 1992, Fernandez-Gimenez and Allen-Diaz 1999), with one study in Bolivia (Buttolph and Coppock 2004). The results of these studies are mixed. Some clearly lend support to the notion that livestock have little impact on herbaceous biomass or species composition in highly variable, arid environments (Turner 1998, Leggett et al. 2003). Others confirm that some ecosystems exhibit a mix of equilibrium and non-equilibrium characteristics (Fernandez-Gimenez and Allen-Diaz 1999, Fynn and O’Connor 2000, Buttolph and Coppock 2004), and interpretation may depend upon the specific variables measured (Fernandez-Gimenez and Allen-Diaz 1999, Fuhlendorf and Engle 2001). In these cases the effects of grazing and rainfall on plant community composition and production are often interactive. Still others conclude that while there is little evidence of short-term and medium-term (up to 11 years) effects of grazing on production, and rainfall drives production dynamics, that it is possible that over the long-term, livestock grazing contributes to declining productivity (Ward et al. 1998, Ward and Ngairorue 2000). Even proponents of non-equilibrium theory are careful to note that ecosystems are arrayed along a continuum between the most constant (and thus equilibrium) and the most highly variable (and therefore non-equilibrium) environments, rather than proposing a stark dichotomy between the two types of systems.

The Tohono O’odham Nation (TON) covers 1.2 million ha of Sonoran desert vegetation and has been grazed by domestic livestock for over 300 years. The rangelands of the TON are diverse, ranging from oak woodlands and desert grasslands to Sonoran desertscrub. However, most literature evaluating the rangelands of the TON fails to make distinctions among the various rangeland vegetation types found on the reservation (Woodbury and Woodbury 1962, U.S. Department of Commerce 1975, Fontana 1976). Historically, technical assistance has assumed that an equilibrium model of vegetation dynamics applies across the TON, leading to uniform management prescriptions that focus on rest rotation grazing and the replacement of the communal land tenure system with a more individualized tenure system that would permit the construction of fenced pastures. These prescriptions ignore the great disparity between the amount of annual rainfall received in the eastern portion of the TON, dominated by desert grasslands, compared to its northern and western regions, characterized by more arid desertscrub vegetation. They also fail to apprehend the adaptive qualities of the unfenced open range communal management system that has evolved on many parts of the TON.

In this project, we question the ecological assumptions that underlie past management recommendations for more arid areas of the TON by assessing the relationship between perennial forage grass densities and grazing intensity along historic gradients of relative grazing pressure on sandy loam upland ecological sites in the 7-10 in. rainfall zone of the Sonoran Desert. In doing so, we contribute to the scant literature on grazing management in the Sonoran desertscrub, while bringing the debate about non-equilibrium rangelands into a North American pastoral ecosystem.

Common Property
Common property regimes are institutional arrangements that define access to and use of shared resources for some user group (Bromley 1991). Leading research on the commons by Ostrom (1990) advises that the key to successful management of resources held under common property regimes is crafting institutions which define user group membership, resource boundaries, resource access and use rules, and mechanisms to enforce rules.

Despite the theory’s popularity in the academic community, Campbell et al. (Campbell et al. 2000), working on southern African rangelands, find few successful on-the-ground examples, which they attribute to the theory’s narrow focus on community institutions at the expense of considerations of social, political, and economic contexts. Sithole (Sithole 2003)and Nemarundwe (Nemarundwe 2004) argue that Ostrom’s rule-based theory of common property regimes founded on the concept of bounded space and homogenous communities is too constraining to fit the dynamic realities of communally managed systems. Fernández-Giménez (Fernandez-Gimenez 2002) working with Mongolian pastoralists recommends that instead of imposing rigid spatial and social boundaries, management of variable rangelands should “focus on the features that have characterized sustainable pastoral management institutions for centuries: mobility, flexibility, and reciprocity” (74). Inherent in this dynamic process of property rights is the act of negotiation and the maintenance of relationships among resource users.

“In general, property rights on rangelands are characterized by a confusing mix of common property, free access, and, sometimes, private property, all at once or seeming to merge and coexist at the same time” (Sithole, 2003, 1573). Although common property theories are infrequently applied to indigenous land use in the U.S. and Canada, descriptions of indigenous property rights from the literature reflect the same complex mix of overlapping property arrangements (Johnson 1998, Turner and Jones 2000). Turner & Jones (2000) review traditional patterns of territoriality and resource ownership in 14 First Nations of British Columbia. They describe various resource use patterns, institutions for resource stewardship, and mechanisms for transferring or gifting property rights, emphasizing that while all of these common property regimes have been impacted by the epidemics and acculturation policies of colonization, the social mechanisms for communal land use still underlay modern Native American culture (Turner & Jones 2000). In this project, we contribute to understanding of livestock and rangeland management regimes for the commonly held and managed rangelands of the Sif Oidak District of the Tohono O’odham Nation.


Materials and methods:

This project consisted of two separate but linked research and outreach efforts related to two distinct objectives.

Rangeland Management Curriculum Methods and Materials
The curriculum project involved three phases of outreach and research: 1) convening the curriculum advisory committee, planning the curriculum, and conducting pre-implementation interviews, 2) curriculum implementation and concurrent evaluation using participant observation and focus groups, and 3) post-implementation evaluation using interviews and discussion with the curriculum advisory committee. Our investigation took a participatory research approach, such that the curriculum advisory committee members helped to shape the research questions and methods, served as research subjects who were interviewed before and after curriculum implementation, and participated in the interpretation and dissemination of the research results.

The research questions addressed in this phase of the project were:
1)How did participation and collaboration in the curriculum project impact its content, implementation, and evaluation?
2)What are the participants’ social capital holdings associated with O’odham rangelands?
3)How did participant collaboration in curriculum design and implementation impact their social capital?

Research and Evaluation Methods
All project activities, participant involvement, and participant discussions were documented throughout the length of the project, including Advisory Committee meetings in the planning phase (August 2002 to October 2003), pilot workshops in the implementation phase (October 2003 to May 2004), and additional Advisory Committee meetings in the evaluation phase (October 2003 to November 2004). Detailed notes were also taken at biweekly natural resources meetings led by project participants on the TO Nation during the implementation phase. During the second year of the project, the lead author was given office space with the TO Range Conservation and Management Program, where she spent two to three days a week for the next year. This allowed for a deeper understanding of a breadth of rangeland issues on the Nation and a chance to discuss emerging themes informally with O’odham colleagues.

Prior to the start of the workshops, we conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with seven core participants, including both O’odham and non-O’odham individuals from the Advisory Committee. Interview questions addressed the participants’ history of involvement with rangeland issues, perceptions of how natural resource concerns are addressed on the Nation, observations from the curriculum advisory committee meetings, and expectations for the future. We held open discussions at the workshops centered on a variety of questions from “How do these management options apply to your situation?” to “What do you see as benefits and limitations of this rangeland curriculum?” At the end of each workshop, we collected paper surveys and/or comment cards, switching in the latter workshops to blank comment cards in response to participants’ preference for open-ended responses. A second set of interviews with six O’odham and non-O’odham individuals who took a leadership role in implementing the pilot workshops was conducted after conclusion of the workshops. These interviews focused on the participants’ role in the project, their reflections on successes and limitations of the project, and their hopes for the future of natural resource education, rangeland use, and research.

All data were reviewed and discussed as they were collected through meetings and correspondence with the Advisory Committee. Meeting and workshop notes, observations, and interview transcripts were coded with NVivo software (QSR 2000) using a grounded-theory approach (Bernard 2002). We also conducted document analysis of all draft versions of the curriculum, draft research interpretations, and correspondence with the Advisory Committee to trace the theoretical contributions from various participants.

Since cooperation was identified as an emerging theme, we applied Woolcock’s (1998) social capital framework to our data, coding data to look for examples of the four types of social capital in relation to O’odham natural resources in general and evidence of changes in social capital as a result of the participatory curriculum project. These analyses took place in collaboration with project participants, who actively shaped the interpretations presented here. We were also vigilant to code for discrepant data that did not fit our emerging conceptual models, such as evidence that our involvement on the TO Nation fueled resentment rather than an interest in collaboration. These discrepant data were discussed alongside alternative interpretations with the Advisory Committee. Final interpretations were refined during the last Advisory Committee meeting and at several public presentations of our findings.

Participatory Rangeland Planning Methods and Materials
The participatory rangeland planning project also involved a linked outreach and research effort. The planning project was initiated prior to the beginning of the current grant, but continued after the grant was received. This project led to the identification of several research questions related to the ecological and social aspects of grazing and livestock management in the Sif Oidak District, Tohono O’odham Nation.

The research questions addressed in this phase of the project were:
1) What is the relationship between historic grazing intensity and the density of perennial forage grasses on sandy loam upland ecological sites in the Sif Oidak District, TON?
2) What are the past and current uses of livestock, livestock management practices, and social institutions related to livestock management, in Sif Oifak District, TON?

Methods for Ecological Field Study
To address the first research question, an ecological field study was conducted. We sampled the density of perennial forage grasses along gradients from three water points located in sandy loam ecological sites in Sif Oidak District. The density of perennial forage grasses was recorded in belt transects. The first 24 belt transects each covered 100 m2 (50 m x 2 m) but subsequent transects were expanded to 200 m2 (50 m x 4 m) in order to raise the probability of encountering perennial forage grasses in each transect. The belt transects were randomly located inside 30 m wide rings at 100 m, 500 m, 1000 m, 2000 m, 4000 m, and 5000 m from water. The number of belt transects at each distance from water interval was roughly proportional to the area within that ring, which expanded with increasing distance from water. Thus, the number of sample units within each stratum ranged from nine belt transects at 100 m from water, to 25 belt transects at 500 m, 30 belt transects at 1000 m, 30 belt transects at 2000 m, 33 belt transects at 4000 m, and 34 belt transects at 5000 m from water, for a total of 161 transects.

Perennial forage grasses inside each belt transect were recorded by species (bush muhly and three awn spp.), with the exception of fluff grass (Erioneuron pulchellum (Kunth) Tateoka), which was omitted due to its extremely low palatability to livestock. Data analyses were conducted on bush muhly and three awn species individually, and on the sum of all perennial forage grass species (bush muhly + three awn spp.). Each grass plant was recorded as “unprotected” or “protected,” indicating whether it was accessible to or protected from grazing animals. For analyses, the densities of protected and unprotected grasses were converted to percentages as follows: [(number of unprotected grasses/total number of grasses) x 100]=percentage of grasses unprotected. Each grass plant was recorded as grazed or ungrazed. A grazed perennial forage grass was defined as receiving one or more grazing events on the current year’s growth. Grasses were recorded as grazed if any part of the plant showed evidence of being bitten (i.e. removal of grass stems or leaves). Ungrazed perennial forage grasses in each transect at each distance from water were converted into percentages in order to estimate utilization levels at each distance from water.

At each transect the slope, aspect, elevation and UTM coordinates were recorded and a photograph was taken. Landscape type was recorded as upland, depression, wash, deep wash, or a combination of the four classes. Uplands were defined as areas that received no moisture other than direct precipitation. Depressions were areas that received run-on but were void of any visible drainages. A wash was defined as a drainage ranging from < 1 m to 3 m. A deep wash was any ephemeral watercourse broader than 3m or incised deeper than 1 m. In 125 plots, when perennial grass was present, we recorded the furthest distance between perennial grass and any evidence of run-on (depressions, micro-terraces, and washes) in each belt transect. Measurements were not taken on every plot because the idea to measure distance to run-on was incorporated midway through the study. Because the data were not normally distributed even after transformations, nonparametric statistics were used. Associations between dependent variables and distance from water were examined using the Spearman’s rank correlation, and the Kruskal-Wallis Test was used to compare grass densities among the distance from water strata. Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient, rs, is an indicator of the strength of association between two variables and is analogous to Pearson’s r in simple correlation analysis. The Kruskal-Wallis Test is a non-parametric analog to ANOVA, also based on the ranks. Analyses did not include transects located 100 m from water because these areas were considered sacrifice zones.
Landscape classes were combined into an “upland” class which consisted of transects entirely located on areas absent of washes. A “drainage” class was created, comprised of all transects that had at least a small segment of a wash within their boundaries. Because of the non-normal distribution of this data set, differences between the two classes were examined using the nonparametric Wilcoxon Rank-Sum Test.

All analyses were performed using JMP statistical software. Differences were considered significant at P<0.05 for all tests. Methods for Ethnographic Study
We used participant observation to document current livestock management practices. The graduate research associate responsible for this study participated in 19 roundups over 1.5 years to observed and document current livestock management practices and institutions. Notes were recorded for the monthly meetings of the participatory planning project. In addition, we conducted many informal and several formal semi-structured interviews with livestock owners and knowledgeable elders and leaders in the Sif Oidak District.

Research results and discussion:

Rangeland Management Curriculum
Outreach Results
After more than a year of planning within the Tohono O’odham Curriculum Advisory Committee, we successfully piloted the Tohono O’odham Rangeland Curriculum as a series of 8 one-day workshops from October 2003 to May 2004, covering the following topics: 1) History of O’odham Rangelands, 2) Rangeland Ecology in the Desert, 3) Animal Health & Management, 4) Grazing Management & Erosion Control, 5) Vegetation Monitoring, 6) Rangeland Planning, 7) Business Management & Economics, and 8) Drought Planning & Management. More than 130 participants, including livestock owners, elders, political leaders, natural resource managers, and youth, attended the workshops that each included indoor and field presentations. More than 60 participants attended two or more workshops with an average of 35 participants at each one. Each workshop also included local history presented by the hosting livestock association or tribal natural resource program. With a total of 60 high quality presentations, more than 50% were given by O’odham. Although the workshops were geared primarily for an adult audience, families felt it was important to involve their children in natural resource issues. As a result, we organized concurrent activities for youth during many of the workshops, including nature walks, erosion demonstrations, and art projects. We also held one overnight fishing trip and camp-out for kids the night before the one of the workshops.

To thank the many people involved in this project, to reflect on the accomplishments of the past year, and to look ahead to future partnerships, we held an awards banquet for all participants in the project on June 11, 2004. A report summarizing key themes and learning from the workshops was presented to participants at the awards banquet. As strong partners in this project, The Tohono O’odham Natural Resources Department and the Tohono O’odham Community College have expressed a commitment to continue the free natural resource workshops and further develop the Rangeland Curriculum into an Agriculture & Natural Resources degree program at the Tohono O’odham Community College.

The range management newsletter, the Range Writer, has successfully published nine issues with articles on topics including history, ecology, management, and planning. The newsletter was useful in announcing the workshops and other natural resource activities.

Research Results and Discussion
In this study, we relied on Woolcock’s (1998) qualitative framework, which describes four forms of social capital based on levels of Autonomy and Embeddedness each at the micro (individual) and macro (organizational) levels. Linkage is an individual’s autonomy from his/her community based on relationships with people outside that community. Organizational Integrity is an organization’s autonomy from other organizations and communities based on organizational competence, coherence, and capacity among individuals within that organization. Integration is an individual’s embeddedness within his/her community based on relationships with people within the community. Synergy is an organization’s or community’s embeddedness in society as a result of institutional relationships among communities and organizations. According to this theory, a balance of the four forms of social capital is important for optimal realization of any economic, political, or social endeavor, and thus this framework can be used to identify the relative strengths of the four forms of social capital in a particular setting in order to determine where development efforts would be most effective (Woolcock 1998).
With respect to the initial social capital among project participants, we found that integration and synergy were generally high, while organizational integrity and linkage were generally low. We found that the participatory curriculum development and research project increased linkage and synergy directly, by providing a forum where community members, political representatives, and natural resource managers could communicate their concerns and discuss solutions to natural resource management problems. The project increased integration indirectly as communities showcased their strengths in the workshops. Integration and linkage were also increased among youths who attended the workshops. Organizational integrity was indirectly increased as employees from different programs within the TO Natural Resources Department coordinated to highlight their programs in the workshops.
The research also demonstrated potential long-term effects of the participatory curriculum development and research processes, including: 1) the initiation of an Agriculture and Natural Resources Program at the Tohono O’odham Community College, 2) institutionalization of a more participatory approach to public information and involvement by the Tohono O’odham Natural Resourced Department, and 3) increased trust in the University and researchers in general. These results illustrate the value of participatory approaches to project development and evaluation, as well as the quality and validity of participatory research in natural resource management.

Participatory Rangeland Planning Project
Outreach Results
Outreach for the participatory planning project included a number of formal and informal interactions. We facilitated monthly planning meetings for 1.5 years; hosted field trips (3), field workshops (2); conducted a community mapping project; and worked with the Sif Oidak Livestock Committee to develop a draft range management plan for Sif Oidak District. We also assisted 5 Sif Oidak communities in applying for EQIP funds through NRCS to support small-scale restoration and revegetation projects. Most of these requests were funded. The Sif Oidak District Council established a revolving loan fund to help community members pay the up-front costs of the EQIP-related supplies.

Ecological Research Results and Discussion
Overall, the density of perennial grasses was sparse, with a mean density of 4.3 (standard deviation (SD) 8) plants per 100 m2 and a median density of 0.5 perennial grass plants (interquartile range (IQR) 0-6) per 100 m2. Bush muhly (mean 2.7 ± 4.9 SD; median 0, IQR 0-3.5) was more abundant than three-awn species (mean 1.6 ± 5.7 SD; median 0, IQR 0-0) over the range of the grazing gradient.
The percent ungrazed perennial forage grasses increased significantly (P=0.02, rs= 0.26) with distance from water. The densities of all perennial grasses (P= 0.04, rs= 0.17) and bush muhly (P= 0.01, rs= 0.20) decreased significantly with distance from water, the opposite of what we would expect if grazing strongly influenced grass densities. However the correlations between distance from water and the dependent variables were weak. There were no significant correlations between distance from water and the percentage of grasses in unprotected areas, or between distance from water and three-awn species. We found no significant relationships between distance from water and any of the dependent variables using the Kruskal-Wallis Test.
Distances of perennial forage grasses to locations where water run-on occurred were measured on 57 occasions. Each observation represents the greatest distance observed within each belt transect between a water run-on source and a perennial forage grass. As indicated by Table 3, there was a 70% chance that the most distant perennial grass was within 1 m or less from a water run-on location and an 88% chance that it was within 2 m. Across all transects (P=0.015) and at 1000 m from water (P=0.03), perennial grass densities were greater on transects that contained some type of drainage.

Results from both rank correlations and Kruskal-Wallis tests indicate that distance from water is at best only weakly related to the total number of perennial forage grasses or to the density of individual perennial grass species. Distance from water also did not influence the number of forage grasses present in unprotected areas. Based on these results, we conclude that grazing intensity has little effect on the density of perennial forage grasses in Sif Oidak across the range of grazing pressures represented along our piosphere gradients.

Our results also show that perennial grass densities are positively associated with the presence of drainage features and that most grasses (88%) occur within 2 meters of some type of drainage. These findings support the notion that abiotic factors such as soil moisture determine grass densities to a greater extent than grazing in our study site and are consistent with Milchunas and Lauenroth’s (Milchunas and Lauenroth 1993) conclusion that ecosystem-environmental variables may be as important as grazing variables in determining production within as well as between communities.

This study indicates that perennial forage grass densities on Sandy Loam Upland ecological sites within 5000 m of water are unrelated to different levels of grazing intensity found along this gradient. This finding suggests that rangeland managers in the Sif Oidak District should not attempt to manage livestock grazing intensity with the goal of maintaining or increasing production of perennial forage grasses in upland areas of the district. Technical assistance and policy guidelines for implementing rangeland improvement programs must be critically reviewed to determine if current policies can account for and appropriately address the spatial and temporal variability of Sif Oidak’s rangelands. Before conclusions about resource conditions are drawn and management goals set for areas such as Sif Oidak, assumptions about the underlying ecological dynamics and appropriate management tools must be carefully examined. In Sif Oidak’s Sandy Loam Uplands, proximity to drainage features appears to be a more important determinant of perennial grass abundance than relative grazing pressure.

Ethnographic Research Results and Discussion
Our ethnographic research showed that livestock are used primarily as a subsistence and cultural resource in Sif Oidak, rather than for commercial production. Livestock continue to play an important cultural and social role in Tohono O’odham life, as well as serving as an emergency cash reserve.

The majority of Sif Oidak’s rangelands are unfenced “open range” and livestock move freely throughout the 194,400-ha district, constrained only by their physiological demands and the district boundary fences. Each village exerts an implicit sphere of influence over the rangelands closest to it, referred to as its “village range.” This influence diminishes with increasing distance, and at their edges the ranges of two or more villages may overlap, creating zones of contested influence. The boundaries of village ranges are not formally defined and the topic of village territories is sensitive. This sensitivity has less to do with rights to forage, or concern about “outsider” cattle grazing in a village range, than with the right to claim ownership of unbranded animals in the area. Difficulties arise when a roundup is called and several villages assert ownership of unbranded animals found in an overlap zone.

With the exception of brand inspection regulations, there are no formal regulations governing livestock or rangeland management in Sif Oidak. The roundup is the primary management institution, whereby livestock are gathered and redistributed to their home village ranges, and communities and individuals capture animals for slaughter, sale or exchange. The greatest management challenges in Sif Oidak are the increasing number of wild and unbranded cattle and horses, declining participation in roundups, and increasing inter-village tensions. A cycle has emerged whereby the increase in wild cattle makes the work of roundups increasingly difficult and dangerous, discouraging participation. Cattle that are chased but not successfully caught learn to avoid human contact and have a negative influence on the behavior of other animals, making them even wilder. Unruly cattle are hard to brand, increasing the number of mavericks. The large number of mavericks leads to discord among villages over the distribution of unbranded animals, which in turn discourages inter-village cooperation and communication, leading to further declining roundup participation and ever increasing numbers of wild, unbranded cattle. Despite these challenges, livestock owners are reluctant to formalize rules to govern allocation of pastures or of maverick livestock. It appears that the social and cultural costs of formalization outweigh the potential benefits.

In sum, our ethnographic research revealed that Sif-Oidak is open range, but not an open access rangeland, and that informal institutions exist that govern livestock management and the use of rangelands. Most of the rules in existence, however, are informal and norm-based, and rely heavily on intra- and inter-village cooperation. We conclude that proposals to “overcome” the “commons problem” by allocating range units to individuals or villages may be counterproductive, and could lead to increasing tensions and decreasing cooperation between communities, while undermining the viability of livestock production in this highly variable environment.

Research conclusions:
  • The workshop presentations and discussions have highlighted important issues on the Tohono O’odham Nation. Issues discussed include the history of O’odham livestock management, the history of Anglo & Mexican ranching on the Nation, a history of Bureau of Indian Affairs involvement in range management, the social and biological diversity of the Nation, the importance of cooperation to O’odham way of life, the challenge of communal land use, the different reasons that people own livestock, the challenge of border issues, opportunities for community land use planning and economic development, the connection between watershed condition and soil erosion, the importance of broad-based education, and the critical role of youth as future stewards of the land.

    •Interaction between livestock owners, natural resource agency personnel, educators, and political leaders has increased as individuals participate together in the workshops. There have been early signs of increased trust between livestock owners and natural resource managers on the Nation, and it appears that trend will continue as O’odham leadership in natural resource management on the Nation grows.

    •The Tohono O’odham Community College (TOCC) has developed its Agriculture and Natural Resources Program at least in part due to the momentum and general interest created by this project. The college offered its first natural resource class in Fall 2004 and plans to add one or two new classes every semester for the next several years. In partnership with the Tohono O’odham Natural Resources Department, TOCC hopes to continue this style of interactive workshops to raise awareness of natural resource issues on the Nation.

    •The social research conducted by M.S. student Jennifer Arnold makes an important contribution to Cooperative Extension. Her research findings emphasize the importance of building social capital and forming relationships as part of an educational outreach program, instead of simply providing educational materials. Sustainable management on the Tohono O’odham Nation requires more than simply implementing conservation practices. It requires good communication, broad-based education, and cooperation to sustain the hard work and commitment that sustainable natural resource management requires.

    •Ecological and ethnographic research conducted by M.S. student John Hays, Jr. concluded that grazing at current stocking rates has little influence upon perennial forage grasses and that future rangeland management efforts should focus on the maintenance of palatable shrubs rather than rotational grazing schemes aimed at increasing production of perennial grasses. A second conclusion was that the existing livestock management strategies developed by O’odham cattle owners are well suited for the environment, given the heterogeneous resource and extreme variability in available water and forage resources. These findings suggest that schemes to promote individual tenure or “range unit” approaches to rangeland management may be counter-productive in the socio-ecological context of Sif-Oidak. A more appropriate approach might be to build on and strengthen existing institutions for inter- and intra-village cooperation, such as village round-ups. Mr. Hays’ results have been presented to a number of tribal members and are presently being considered by natural resource managers in policy making positions on the Nation.

    •Both the participatory planning project and the curriculum project have been successful in building local and tribal capacity in natural resource management.

    •At the local level, the Sif-Oidak planning project led to successful applications for EQIP funding by more than half of the 9 villages in the district. In addition, participants in the planning project and key political leaders from the Sif-Oidak District have been closely involved in the curriculum project, sharing their learning with other districts on the Nation through the workshop series.

    •Many attendees at the workshops were local or tribal political leaders who expressed appreciation for the opportunity to learn more about the Nation’s rangeland resources and their management.

    •O’odham staff of the tribal natural resources department and the NRCS Sells office were key participants in the curriculum project and participated actively in organizing and presenting the workshops. For many of the staff members, most of whom do not have formal education natural resources, this was excellent experience. These participants also served as role models for other workshop participants including the youth who attended. Several of these individuals have expressed interest in pursuing higher education in natural resources, and specifically in rangeland management, encouraged to do so by their involvement in this project.

    •Finally, both the curriculum and participatory planning projects increased linkages between the Tohono O’odham Nation, and O’odham individuals and communities, and financial and technical resources off the reservation. The close working relationship with University of Arizona Cooperative Extension appears to have significantly influenced the way that some participants view the University and University-sponsored research. In the words of one local leader who attended most of the workshops, “The University doesn’t realize how important [these workshops] are to the University.” By taking a participatory approach that respects the diversity of goals for and approaches to livestock husbandry on the Nation, and seeks to highlight the unique ecological assets and dynamics of different districts on the Nation, these projects differ dramatically from past natural resource education and development interventions that took a “one size fits all” approach and were based on commercial livestock production and range management assumptions developed in very different social, cultural and ecological contexts. The response to this different approach is reflected in the enthusiasm of participants, the momentum to continue the workshops in the future and to develop a community college curriculum based on them, and the local support for and interest in the research associated with each of the projects.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

Arnold, J.S. 2004. What is the value of participation?: Building social capital to support sustainable management of Tohono O’odham Rangelands. M.S. Thesis, University of Arizona, Tucson. 205 p.

Hays, J.U., Jr. 2004. Perennial grass abundance and livestock management in the arid rangelands of the Sif Oidak District, Tohono O’odham Nation. M.S. Thesis, University of Arizona, Tucson. 163 p.

Peer-reviewed journals and proceedings
Fernandez-Gimenez, M.E., Hays, J.U., Huntington, H.P., Andrews, R. and Goodwin, W. In Review. Ambivalence towards formalizing customary resource management norms among Alaska Native beluga hunters and Tohono O’odham livestock owners. Submitted to World Development.

Arnold-Musa, J. and M.E. Fernandez-Gimenez. In Review. Building social capital through participatory research: An analysis of collaboration on Tohono O’odham tribal rangelands in Arizona. Submitted to Society and Natural Resources.

Hays, J.U., Fernandez-Gimenez, M.E. and the Sif Oidak Livestock Committee. In Press. Participatory rangeland planning on the Tohono O’odham Nation. Rangelands.

Arnold, J.S. and M.E. Fernandez-Gimenez. 2003. Collaborative development and qualitative assessment of a rangeland management curriculum on the Tohono O’odham Nation. Pp1824-1826 in Allsopp, N et al. (eds): Proceedings of the VII International Rangeland Congress, July 27-August 1, 2003. Durban, South Africa.

Hays, J.U. and M.E. Fernandez-Gimenez. 2003. Reevaluating Tohono O’odham livestock management practices in the Sonoran desert. Pp1833-1836 in Allsopp, N et al. (eds): Proceedings of the VII International Rangeland Congress, July 27-August 1, 2003. Durban, South Africa.

Book Chapters
Fernandez-Gimenez, M.E. and J.S. Arnold-Musa. In Review. Sharing knowledge and sharing power: rethinking community participation in the research process. In E. Donoghue and V. Sturtevant, Eds., [Communities and Forests (provisional title)].

Presentations and Posters
Arnold, J. and Fernandez-Gimenez, M.E. 2005. Exploring the role of rangeland scientists through participatory research on O’odham tribal lands. Paper presented at the Society for Range Management annual meeting, February 2-4, 2005, Fort Worth, TX.

Arnold, J. 2005. Working together for natural resourced education: accomplishments from the WSARE rangeland curriculum on the Tohono O’odham Nation. Paper presented at the Southwest Indian Agricultural Association annual conference, January 26-28, 2005, Laughlin, NV.

Arnold, J. 2004. What is the value of participation?: building social capital to support sustainable management of Tohono O’odham rangelands. Paper presented at the International Symposium for Society and Resource Management, June 2-5, 2004, Keystone, CO.

Fernandez-Gimenez, M.E. 2003. Cowboys and Indians: rethinking range management on the Tohono O’odham Nation. Invited seminar presentation. Colorado State University Dept. of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship, October 2, 2003, Fort Collins CO.

Arnold, J.S., M.E. Fernandez-Gimenez and the Curriculum Advisory Committee. 2003. Collaborative development and participatory evaluation of a Tohono O’odham rangelands curriculum. Paper presented at the Arizona Association of Environmental Education meeting, September, 2003, Tucson, AZ.

Hays, J.U., M.E. Fernandez-Gimenez, G. Two-two, K. Egen, and Sif Oidak Livestock Committee. 2002. Participatory rangeland management planning-Sif Oidak District, Tohono O’odham Nation. Poster presented at the Society for Range Management annual meeting, February 13-19, Kansas City, MO.

Curriculum Project
The content and impact of the curriculum project were summarized above. The following tables show the number of presentations and people reached.

Workshop Topic # of Presentations # of People Present % of Presentations by O’odham Presenters
History 6 30 83
Ecology 8 40 50
Livestock Mgt. 9 35 78
Grazing Mgt. 7 58 43
Monitoring 9 25 56
Rangeland Planning 7 35 57
Economic 6 31 67
Drought Planning 10 43 80
TOTAL 62 297 65

Advisory Committee Meetings
Meeting Date # of Participants # of Organizations
Meeting#1 9.6.02 22 18
Meeting#2 12.19.02 18 11
Meeting#3 2.18.03 12 6
Meeting#4 4.24.03 14 11
Gu Achi 5.3.03 30 6
Livestock Assoc.
TO Nat. Res. 5.13.03 17 10
Dept. Staff
Ag. Committee 5.15.03 4 4
TO Leg. Council
Sif Oidak 6.9.03 9 6
Livestock Committee
Meeting#5 7.9.03 16 11
Tres Equis 7.19.03 10 5
Livestock Assoc.
Sells Livestock 9.3.03 11 5
Meeting#6 9.16.03 11 9
Ag Committee 9.15.03 5 5
TO Leg. Council
Meeting#7 10.30.03 7 4
Meeting#8 5.15.04 9 10
TOTAL 98 45

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Farmer Adoption

As described earlier, the participatory planning project resulted in the implementation of at least 5 small-scale conservation projects by Sif Oidak villages, as well as the creation of a range management plan for the district. These efforts represent a significant change in knowledge and behavior on the part of Sif Oidak livestock owners.

The curriculum project resulted in adoption of the curriculum by the Tohono O’odham Community College as part of its Agriculture and Natural Resources Program. In addition, the participatory approach of the project design and implementation has influenced the way in which the TO Natural Resources Department continues to interact with livestock owners and other community members. In effect, the Department has adopted a much more inclusive and participatory approach to information sharing and planning in general. We expect that this institutionalization of participatory, collaborative approaches to resource management on the Nation will lead to long-term changes in trust and relationships, and ultimately, in more effective and more widely accepted management of the Nation’s rangelands.


Areas needing additional study

This project points to the need for additional research in three major areas: 1) participatory research in natural resource management, 2) the social outcomes of collaborative and participatory natural resource planning, and 3) the effects and management of large herbivores on shrub-dominated plant communities of the Sonoran desert. The research related to the curriculum project points to the need for more documentation and evaluation of participatory research approaches in natural resource management in the USA. These approaches are increasingly common internationally, but remain poorly understood by many US natural scientists and professionals. Further, the proliferation of collaborative natural resource management and planning efforts in the USA, and particularly the West, calls for more rigorous qualitative and quantitative analyses of the short and long-term social outcomes and impacts of collaborative and participatory planning. Finally, our ecological and ethnographic study in Sif Oidak District points to the need for more management-oriented ecological research on the effects of livestock grazing on Sonoran desert shrubland plant communities. The majority of range science research in the southwest has focused on desert grasslands, to the exclusion of the more arid shrublands that dominate much of the landscape and are also commonly used by livestock both on and off Indian Reservations. In particular, very little is known about the effects of large grazers on the shrub component of these communities, either at the level of individual plants or plant communities. Since shrubs compose an important part of the diets of both wild and domestic ungulates in this area, applied studies of the effects of browsing, rest, and deferral are needed to effectively manage livestock in arid southwest.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.