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

    Proposal abstract:

    As competing demands vie for increasingly finite rangeland resources, availability of consistent, comparable economic, social, and ecological information will foster informed, sound decision making relative to sustainable rangeland ecosystems and ranches. Rangeland professionals must be aware and prepared to assist ranchers in collecting, compiling, and evaluating relevant data to support their diversified business plan goals. As ranchers endeavor to stay on the land and adapt their business practices to changing markets and demands for various goods and services, collection of monitoring data to track trends in elements elaborated in their business plan goals will become increasingly important to the long-term sustainability of their ranch operations. Ranchers rely on informed, competent technical assistance professionals for help. Tracking trends in supply and demand of livestock and wildlife forage and associated products can help ranchers appropriately allocate efforts and investments in feed, equipment, labor, and land. Rangeland professionals with knowledge of business planning processes, diversification and use of monitoring information can assist ranchers. Access to informed rangeland professionals can only enhance rancher participation in monitoring activities; therefore, we plan to maximize knowledge, awareness, skills, and abilities of rangeland professionals through workshops focusing on rangeland monitoring to support and inform rancher’s business plan goals. We will coordinate and lead the meetings and workshops 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. We will conduct training workshops for the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable Ranch Assessment Project through professional development workshops held at the Society for Range Management and the Soil and Water Conservation Society annual meetings.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Workshops will increase participating professional’s knowledge of indicator-based assessment of social, economic, and ecological sustainability at the ranch level, as well as the evolution and applicability of the rangeland sustainability paradigm. Participants will also be more aware of the business planning process and its interactions with NRCS conservation plans and available technical assistance through NRCS and extension.

    The techniques segments of these workshops will provide professionals with opportunity to increase their awareness of rangeland monitoring techniques applicable to soils, water, plants, animals, productive capacities, economic aspects, and social, legal and institutional elements characterized by the baseline set of ranch sustainability indicators. By increasing their skill in using available monitoring techniques, professionals may also improve their capacity to share their knowledge with ranchers and other rangeland management practitioners. Awareness of relationships between monitoring information and business plan goals will be highly beneficial.

    Longer term, with knowledge of the ecological, social, and economic elements of sustainability, as well as the skills to monitor, track trends, and evaluate outcomes of management activities, professionals should be able to implement and communicate this information and ability to the communities that they support. If a majority of rangeland professionals eventually assist ranchers and other rangeland managers with planning and monitoring for rangeland sustainability, the ecological and economic health of ranchers and the rangeland-dependent communities in which they live should improve, conserving a unique way of life and the supplies of rangeland goods and services upon which society depends.

    Changes in behavior of educators will be measurable along with the short and medium term outcomes. Improved knowledge, skills, and capacities (short and medium term outcomes) will be assessed and predicted using self-assessment questionnaires immediately following the workshops to ask participants whether their knowledge of sustainability paradigms and their skill with monitoring techniques for soil, water, plants, animals, productive capacities, economic aspects, and social, legal and institutional elements characterized by the baseline set of SRR ranch sustainability indicators has improved. Such self-assessments are a well-documented method for program evaluation. Participants also will be asked if they would be willing to participate in a follow-up email questionnaire about their use of these knowledge, skills, and abilities within 1 year after the workshop. A general email questionnaire will be sent to self-identified willing participating professionals. Simple Likert scale and open-ended questions would elicit necessary information from respondents. This evaluation will assist in determining whether our performance targets for the training are longer lasting.

    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.