Linking Adaptive Rangeland Decision-Making and Vulnerability to Drought and Wildfire

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2020: $13,393.80
Grant Recipient: University of California, Davis, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Rangelands Lab
Region: Western
State: California
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Major Professor:
Grace Woodmansee
University of California, Davis, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Rangelands Lab


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: rangeland/pasture management
  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Sustainable Communities: social networks

    Proposal abstract:

    Public lands span over 50% of the western United States and provide numerous ecosystem services to society such as open space, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, water and forage for grazing animals. Over the past decade, severe wildfires and historic drought conditions have ravaged western rangelands and the communities that depend on them, bringing substantial social, economic, and ecological stress. My research questions are: 1) How vulnerable are grazing allotments in Northeastern California to drought and/or wildfire? (objective 1); 2) What are the primary challenges public lands ranchers face in managing to prevent or adapt to drought and wildfire on their allotments? (objective 2), and; 3) How does the vulnerability of public land grazing allotments to drought and wildfire influence ranch sustainability? (objective 3).

    I will address knowledge gaps in the relationship between biophysical and social vulnerabilities to climate hazards for a critical component of western ranches—public lands; specifically, I will use survey methods and ecological-based models to provide a holistic view of the vulnerability of public lands ranching to drought and wildfire. This research will improve the economic, environmental and social sustainability of ranchers by: 1) identifying successful, region-specific management tools that will increase ranch resiliency to drought and wildfire; and, 2) informing policy decision-making for adaptive rangeland management on public land. This multidisciplinary research will inform the development of a workshop series in northern California, which will focus on providing region-specific information about drought and wildfire risk to ranchers, and facilitating information sharing among stakeholders.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    My overall goal is to work with public lands ranchers and managers to develop a social-ecological systems model of how usable adaptation strategies can be developed to best sustain economic, environmental, and social benefits of public rangelands. Specific project objectives are:


    Objective 1: Assess climate exposure and sensitivity

    I will assess how exposure to different climate factors and the sensitivity of landscapes to these factors impact the risk of drought and wildfire on public grazing allotments enrolled in this study25,26.  I will begin collecting open source climate data throughout summer 2020 and will work with UC Davis collaborators to build a complete model by fall 2020.  


    Objective 2: Assess rancher adaptive capacity

    I will assess adaptive capacity via four components of adaptive decision making: information sources, management capacity, goal setting and previous experience7,11,27. I will work with project UCCE advisors and BLM collaborators to publicize and deploy surveys, using the BLM Allotment Report database to reference permittee information. Surveys will be deployed summer-fall 2020. 


    Objective 3: Integrate assessments to provide a holistic view of system vulnerability

    I will evaluate interactions between climate (Objective 1) and social assessments (Objective 2) to create a holistic view of regional vulnerability to drought and wildfire. These data will inform management and policy decision-making for mitigating negative impacts of climate hazards on public rangelands.


    Objective 4: Codevelop educational materials and workshops with stakeholders

    I will collaborate with UCCE advisors to host two workshops in Lassen and Modoc Counties during summer 202 to: 1) communicate project results to ranchers and BLM personnel; 2) provide opportunities for stakeholder networking and learning, and; 3) assess impact of project outcomes with ranchers and land managers.

    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.