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

2011 Annual Report for EW10-020

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

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


Workshops and materials funded through this WSARE project are designed to teach conservation professionals, extension personnel and land managers about combining social, ecological and economic monitoring with standard business planning methods for sustainable ranch management. The business planning process and the protocols needed to gather necessary monitoring data will be presented. Applications on federal allotments, as well as within the NRCS conservation planning context for private lands will be addressed. A section will deal specifically with collection of traditional monitoring data for soils, water, plant, animals, productive capacities, economics, and relevant social, legal, and institutional elements.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Workshops will increase participating professionals’ 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 SRR 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.


Project participants have completed creation and publication of the Ranch Sustainability Assessment Guidebook. This publication was used during the first WSARE workshop, held during February 2011 at the Society for Range Management (SRM) Annual Meeting in Billings, MT. It is available on the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable (SRR) website at http://www.sustainablerangelands.org/ranchassessment/pdf/ranch_guidebook_B1216.pdf.

Additionally, we have created a section of the SRR dedicated to this ranch sustainability assessment effort on the SRR project page http://sustainablerangelands.org/projects.shtml. The set of materials available there includes not only the guidebook linked above, but also a short descriptive handout about the process, an illustrative poster presentation, MS Powerpoint presentations from the first workshop, and a coursebook of workshop materials provided to workshop participants for use during the workshop.

The initial participant surveys for the first workshop held at SRM were conducted at the end of the workshop, and the responses have been tabulated. Overall, participants found the session to be very useful. The second survey to gauge longer-term results of the workshop will be conducted via Survey Monkey during January 2012.

We had initially planned to hold our second workshop during the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) meeting in Washington DC, July 2011. However funding constraints coupled with agency participant travel restrictions effectively scuttled that plan. We have worked with SWCS to re-schedule the second workshop for their July 2012 meeting, to be held in Fort Worth, TX. Re-scheduling has necessitated additional planning and preparatory meetings, since plans in place for Washington DC will need to be re-directed for the Fort Worth meeting. However, SWCS has been very cooperative in helping us adjust, and we have high hopes for a successful session next summer.

This second workshop is the most substantial outstanding component of this WSARE project. Associated materials will be generated during 2012 and coordinated at a planning meeting during Spring 2012. Requisite workshop participant surveys for this upcoming meeting will also be conducted following the July 2012 workshop.

A final meeting of WSARE project participants must be held in 2013 to review workshop outcomes and next steps. As noted in the original proposal, this meeting will also be used to explore results of workshop participant surveys, in conjunction with a full review of materials used to present the workshops, to identify improvements and opportunities for future programs and projects. The final WSARE grant reports would include information from these concluding discussions.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

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.

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.

Additionally, managing for multiple goals including cattle production, migrant bird habitat and rare plants can be economically and socially beneficial to individual ranchers and communities, increasing income and conservation. Rangeland professionals need knowledge, skills, and abilities to help ranchers understand and implement such sustainable rangeland management practices. The workshops funded by this WSARE grant will help professionals help ranchers to succeed under increasingly challenging operating conditions by enhancing their knowledge of monitoring, business planning, and elements of rangeland sustainability.


Dr. Kristie Maczko

Research Associate
University of Wyoming
Dept 3354 - Dept of Renewable Resources
1000 E. University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071
Office Phone: 9702955985
Dr. John Tanaka

Department Head and Professor
University of Wyoming
Dept. 3354 - Dept of Renewable Resources
1000 E. University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071
Office Phone: 3077665130
Dr. John Mitchell

Emeritus Scientist
Rocky Mountain Research Station
2150 Centre Ave.
Bldg A, Ste 361
Fort Collins, CO 80526
Office Phone: 9702955957
Dr. Larry Bryant

Bryant Ranches
12355 Greenhorn St.
Herndon, VA 2017-2132
Office Phone: 7034835780
Stanley Hamilton

Idaho State Director of Lands, Retired
11148 Seneca Dr.
Boise, ID 8370-3949
Office Phone: 2083622779
Dr. Michael Smith

University of Wyoming
Dept 3354 - Dept of Renewable Resources
1000 E. University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071
Office Phone: 3077662337