Ranch Sustainability Assessment: Economic, Ecological, - Social Indicator Monitoring

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2010: $85,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Wyoming
Principal Investigator:
Dr. John Tanaka
University of Wyoming

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: grazing management
  • Education and Training: extension, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: indicators
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, sustainability measures



    This Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (WSARE) grant focused on creating a workshop series to assist rangeland professionals working with ranchers to better align rancher’s business plan goals with capability of the ranch’s rangeland resources, to improve the viability and sustainability of family ranches. Strategically monitoring the condition of soil, water, vegetation, wildlife, livestock production, and economics helps inform business plan goals. Business planning and resource monitoring helps keep ranchers on the land, supports the well-being of rangeland-dependent communities and helps conserve the rural way-of-life. To work towards this mission, the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable (SRR) formed a working group to develop a monitoring framework for ecological, economic, and social sustainability that functions within ranchers’ business plans. Two workshops were held in conjunction with annual meetings of the Society for Range Management, one in Billings, Montana during 2011 and the other in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 2103. Both workshops were well attended and well-received, with a full day of presentations from university extension personnel, agency leadership, and business planning professionals. Communication materials shared at the workshops included a workshop coursebook to help participants track the presentations, a Sustainable Ranch Management Guidebook to work through with their ranchers, and a copy of a booklet on Sustainable Rangeland Ecosystem Goods and Services. In addition, these materials and workshop presentations are available on the SRR website http://sustainablerangelands.org. An article highlighting this sustainable ranch management program was also written and published in the Wyoming Livestock Roundup in October 2011, followed by a more detailed article featured in the journal Rangelands in February 2012. Exhibits and poster presentations were also used to share information on this effort at annual meetings of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, Ecological Society of America, and Society for Range Management.

    Project objectives:

    Objectives/Performance Targets

    The SRR ranch assessment workgroup members met performance targets for this WSARE supported project by successfully organizing and presenting two full-day professional development workshops for rangeland specialists. The SRR workgroup coordinated and led the planning and coordination meetings and workshops originally proposed to WSARE to expand rangeland professionals’ awareness and use of this framework for indicator-based assessments of ranch sustainability as articulated in ranchers’ individual business plan goals. Planning and coordination meetings were used to develop program outlines and products for the professional development workshops. These workshops were designed to involve not only university personnel, but also agency staff and producers, where practical. Partnerships critical to this project were already in place due to participant involvement in the SRR’s 8-year history of regional and national rangeland sustainability indicator assessment efforts. Strong relationships exist with professional societies such as the SRM, the ESA, and the NACD; industry associations such as the National Grazing Lands Coalition, Public Lands Council, and Wyoming State Grazing Board; federal land management and technical assistance agencies such as FS, BLM, and NRCS; and extension experts throughout the Western United States. The professional development workshops were held in conjunction with the Society for Range Management Annual Meetings in Billings, Montana during February 2011 and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma during February 2013. The second SRM workshop deviated from original proposed plans due to lower than predicted attendance at the Soil and Water Conservation Society’s Annual meetings as a result of federal government travel restrictions. Low attendance numbers at SWCS meetings necessitated twice rescheduling the final workshop to ensure the largest potential audience was reached. The final coordination session was more focused on evaluation of the overall ranch indicator assessment project, including feedback from professional development workshop participants, with the broader membership of the SRR, held during December 2013.

    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.