Restoration of Economic and Ecological Sustainability in Western Rangeland: A Handbook

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1996: $62,800.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1998
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $45,364.00
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Project Coordinator:
W. Carter Johnson
S. Dakota St. Univ., Dept of Hort., Forestry, Landscape, & Parks

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Additional Plants: native plants


  • Animal Production: pasture renovation, range improvement, grazing - rotational, housing, watering systems, feed/forage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, feasibility study
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, riparian buffers, soil stabilization, wetlands, wildlife
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures


    OBJECTIVES: The overall purpose of our project was to compose, publish, and distribute a guidebook which will: (1) provide landowners with proven approaches to restoring productivity and sustainability to degraded rangeland, and (2) promote general use of sustainable agricultural practices by documenting their successful implementation on South Dakota rangeland. The guidebook describes restoration techniques employed on the Mortenson Ranch in Stanley County, S.D., and offers suggestions for applying these principles on other lands.

    METHODS: We organized the guidebook’s contents to include the following topics: (1) the need for restoration, (2) the design of a sustainable cattle grazing regime, (3) planning and constructing a dam system to improve water resources, (4) promoting the growth of native vegetation, (5) economic analysis of ranch productivity before and after restoration activities, and (6) suggestions for landowners and requests for feedback.

    RESULTS: The 25-page booklet, entitled “The Mortenson Ranch: Cattle and Trees at Home on the Range” was completed in September, 1998 with the printing of 7000 copies. All county extension offices in South Dakota received copies. Numerous state and federal agencies within South Dakota, students at South Dakota State University, and members of the Stockgrowers’ Association and Society for Range Management are among the groups receiving handbooks. It is available at no cost to any farmer or rancher upon request.

    IMPACT and POTENTIAL CONTRIBUTIONS: We anticipate distributing handbooks to many audiences (via presentations at conferences, classes, meetings) and look forward to receiving information from readers. Each handbook includes a tear-out postcard requesting suggestions and general feedback from those who used the guidebook.

    Project objectives:

    1. Provide landowners and public and private agencies with proven methods and approaches to restoring degraded rangeland to a healthy, productive and sustainable condition.

    2. Promote the general use of sustainable agricultural practices by documenting successful methods on western South Dakota rangeland.

    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.