Developing Guidelines for Sustainable Livestock Grazing in South Dakota Ponderosa Pine Forests: Balancing Economically Important Ecosystem Goods with Ecological Integrity

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2014: $9,978.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Grant Recipient: SDSU Extension
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Roger Gates
SDSU Extension


  • Additional Plants: trees
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: free-range, grazing management, grazing - continuous, grazing - rotational, pasture fertility, range improvement, stocking rate
  • Crop Production: agroforestry, forestry
  • Education and Training: extension
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Pest Management: weed ecology
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Ponderosa pine forest management in the Black Hills, SD currently focuses on reducing tree stocking and fuels to minimize wildfire and mountain pine beetle risks.  While many of these lands are grazed by livestock, management practices which optimize both timber and cattle production simultaneously have not been identified.  Better understanding of relationships among livestock grazing, timber and forage production, wildlife, aesthetics, and plant community composition is critical to reduce uncertainty and optimize management.  Proposed research will investigate relationships among duration and intensity of livestock use, forage production, plant species diversity, and ponderosa pine regeneration.  Research will be conducted in the Black Hills for the following reasons: 1) the Black Hills National Forest is the most intensively managed National Forest in the U.S. with well documented timber harvest methods and livestock grazing practices, and 2) the forest provides many economically important ecosystem goods and services such as cattle and timber production, big game hunting, tourism, and recreation.  Short-term outcomes include the collection of data and development of relationships among management practices and ecosystem goods and services.  Intermediate and long-term outcomes include increases in knowledge and understanding, and changes in management practices for ranchers and public land stewards.  Progress in short-term outcomes will be monitored and reported at the end of the data collection season.  A presentation of research results will be given to the Rangeland Management Specialists at the Black Hills National Forest to increasing knowledge and understanding of relationships between management practices and resource condition.  Long-term outcomes of changing management practices may take several years to decades, and will not be measured as part of this project.  Relationships among management practices and ecosystem goods and services can be integrated into future management plans to sustainably produce livestock and timber while maintaining a diverse and productive native plant community.  Optimizing livestock and timber production and maintaining native plant communities has the potential to improve rancher profitability, and environmental quality.  Enhancements to the Black Hills forest resource base may also benefit wildlife, hunting, ascetics, tourism, and recreation.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Proposed short-term outcomes include data collection and analysis, and development of relationships among management practices and ecosystem goods and services.  Changes in knowledge and understanding of public land stewards pertaining to the influence of management practice on resource quality and condition is an intermediate outcome.  Long-term outcomes include changes in management practices of forested landscapes.  Relationships among forest grazing management practices and forest ecosystem goods and services will be used to identify management strategies that balance economically and ecologically important ecosystem goods and services.  This research can be incorporated into future management decisions by both private landowners and public land managers and may improve profitability, environmental quality, and quality of life.  Rangeland Management Specialists from the Black Hills National Forest have provided input into aspects of this project, and are also interested in the results as they pertain to pastures under their management.  The results of this work will be presented to the public land stewards at the Black Hills National Forest with the intent to: 1) increase knowledge and understanding of how management practices impact resource condition and quality, and 2) change livestock grazing practices in forested landscapes.  Opportunities for producer education include contacting landowners who have used educational resources of the South Dakota State University (SDSU), and creating educational material that can be incorporated into the SDSU Extension online resources.

    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.