Agency Personnel Training in Riparian Monitoring and Management of Wildlife and Livestock in the Intermountain West
1. Conduct workshops for Western Region agency personnel aimed at developing expertise in providing riparian monitoring and management education to local ranchers.
2. Develop demonstration areas to show on-ground practices for managing herbivore (livestock and wildlife) use of riparian areas.
3. Develop demonstration areas to illustrate strategies for monitoring wildlife vs. livestock use of riparian areas.
4. Develop demonstration areas to demonstrate strategies to lure herbivores from riparian areas using salt, fertilizer, supplement and water.
5. Conduct demonstrations to illustrate the need a) to develop riparian condition goals and, b) to utilize effective and economical methods of monitoring livestock use of riparian areas.
6. Summarize results and strategies in publications and handbooks.
The sustainability of livestock operations in the intermountain west is often dependent on the sustainability of riparian areas. Many producers rely on personnel within the Cooperative Extension Service (CES) and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) for assistance and expertise in management and monitoring of riparian areas. The purpose of this project was to increase the understanding and proficiency of Western region agency personnel so they could conduct educational programs and develop demonstration areas at the local level and respond to client needs in sustainable riparian management.
A unique aspect of this project is that we have taught others to become teachers. In this way the multiplying effect of the effort was maximized. During the first year of the project we developed the demonstration areas that were used during the training sessions, which were in 1997 and 1998. Cross-riparian drift fences, off-site waterers, off-site fertilizer plots and other management demonstrations have been installed. The areas for wildlife vs. livestock grazing demonstrations were completed. Coordination to identify appropriate contacts to maximize workshop attendance was completed between Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.
A three-day workshop for County Agents, and the NRCS was held August 19-21, 1997. A total of 32 CES, NRCS, ranchers, and CES/University participants attended. Pre- and post-workshop evaluations were used to direct the next workshop. The 1998 workshop was held August 25-27 for 28 participants. Modified workshops were held for 20 and 15 participants, November 5-6 and November 9-10, 1998 respectively. Workshops had participants from Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, and included NRCS and CES personnel. Publications and home study courses are in progress describing best management and monitoring practices have been developed and will be ready for distribution in the spring 1999.
Installation of demonstration area began during the first year of the project. These demonstrations were used as field trip teaching sites during the workshops. Additionally, information collected at the sites was presented and provided workshop participants with a better understanding of the value of demonstration areas in their training programs. Two cross-riparian drift fences were built on Alan Carter’s and Andy O’Hara’s ranches south of Livingston, Montana. Sixteen elk-cattle enclosures were built on the Bandy Ranch near Ovando, Montana. Demonstration areas to monitor the effect of grazing on forb production were also located at the Bandy Ranch. Off-site waterings, fertilizer, salt and supplement demonstration areas were established in numerous locations in northern Wyoming, eastern Idaho and in the Southwest Montana area. These areas were the primary focus of the workshop and serve as illustrations of riparian management and monitoring. Originally, two training workshops were planned for the same year. To ensure availability of the most qualified workshop instructors, including rancher and commodity group participants, the coordinating committee decided to focus on one workshop each year. Both have been completed and two additional modified workshops were held in November for participants that could not attend the more detailed field-orientated courses. Information developed prior to and during this project is summarized in a publication on Managing Cattle Grazing in Riparian Areas. A video has been developed to introduce and encourage ranchers to become riparian managers.
In addition to the workshops, information will be disseminated through a workshop publication. Workshop trainers prepared a handbook that describes best management practices taught during this project. Also, through this SARE program a video has been developed introducing home-study that county agents and NRCS personnel can use in their areas to train ranchers. This introductory video, Riparian Area Management: An Overview, is also being prepared to introduce ranchers to the benefits of increasing their riparian management knowledge through a home study video course.
To sustain ranches in the intermountain west, ranchers must become active managers of riparian areas. This includes an understanding of riparian processes, the ability to define what they hope to achieve through riparian management and the ability to monitor the progress they are achieving through their riparian management program. The most logical and effective way to provide this knowledge and ability to ranchers is through local county extension agents and Natural Resource Conservation Service personnel. The purpose of this project is to provide the training necessary for CES and NRCS to fulfill this role in the Western region and to develop demonstrations of successful riparian management strategies on working ranches.
Impacts on Agricultural Professionals
Through pre- and post workshop evaluations, we are able to quantify the pre- and post-workshop changes in competence and attitude of participants. These results, which indicate significant benefits of the training, are summarized below.
Prior to the workshop, 53 percent of the participants indicated riparian management was in the upper ten percent of priorities in natural resource management. After the workshop, 69 percent of the participants felt riparian management was in the upper ten percent of natural resource management priorities.
Prior to the workshop, only 62 percent of the participants felt capable or very capable of teaching others about riparian management. After the workshop, 92 percent felt capable or very capable of teaching riparian management. Additionally, there was a 23 percent increase in the number of participants who now feel very capable of teaching riparian monitoring.
Reactions from Farmers and Ranchers
Ranchers have been used as instructors for both years of the project. They have commented on the practical nature of the workshop and how they were pleased the workshop participants were getting practical field demonstrations. The ranchers commented that their peers would be much more receptive to practical hands-on workshops.
Future Recommendations or New Hypotheses
As the project progressed we realized that we would not be able to accommodate all the riparian training needs or clientele that wanted the training. We decided to merge our effort into another project designed to provide detailed instructions using publications, videos, and demonstration areas developed by both projects. This would have been more easily accomplished early in our project. We recommend that future Professional Development Projects consider complementary projects that are ongoing. Coordination of effort can result in a longer-term and a farther-reaching educational program.
This summary was prepared by the project coordinator for the 1999 reporting cycle.