The 2018 WSARE project titled “Ecological and economic benefit-cost comparison of grazed and ungrazed prairie land for critical species protection in western Washington” (#SW18-103) identified that conservation rotational grazing practices can be used to establish and maintain native plant and animal communities while supporting agricultural productivity. Through economic analyses and social surveys, the research team also determined what financial or social incentives might be utilized to support conservation actions on working lands. However, to actually build those incentive programs and integrate conservation actions on working lands, a broad education and outreach strategy must be utilized to engage the landowners, producers, funders, regulatory agencies and conservation professionals. We propose constructing a regional grassland grazing association focused on sharing the principles, practices and programs that support sustainable grazing businesses and healthy grasslands. The content will be driven by the needs and interests of the producers and events and resources will be coordinated by an interdisciplinary team including NRCS agricultural professionals, university extension staff, conservation district education specialists, non-profit conservation ecologists, USFWS biologists, and county planners. This team will develop and host online and in-person workshops, webinars and on-site demonstrations on topics of conservation rotational grazing, cost-share and incentive programs and work together to develop innovative marketing approaches for prairie-friendly agricultural products. Utilizing multiple outreach and education venues (synchronous & asynchronous online events, in-person indoor and outdoor events) will allow for the greatest flexibility as we respond to changing COVID-19 guidelines and it will maximize the community reach of these activities.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project aims to share information across agencies, disciplines and cultures, while also strengthening the livestock producer community in southwest Washington. While agriculture-based committees and organizations exist, none are focused on livestock producers, with the specialized needs, challenges and opportunities that exist within that community. Due to the fact that most grazing lands in southwest Washington are located on remnant prairies, these ranchers have the unique challenge of managing a successful business while also protecting endangered species on their property. By creating a venue for information sharing, easy access to cost-share and funding opportunities, and enhanced community support, we hope to generate both business and conservation gains for producers in this region. Our four objectives for this project include:
- Connect stakeholders by developing an interdisciplinary, multi-agency, rancher-led grassland grazing association with a minimum of ten participating ranching businesses.
- Expand knowledge and skills associated with conservation grazing principles and practices within the agricultural, conservation and regulatory communities, using results from previous WSARE studies, example conservation grazing management plans and a peer-reviewed Conservation Grazing Guide developed in the previous WSARE study.
- Increase utilization and knowledge of cost-share and easement opportunities among private landowners and document landowner interest in conservation grazing programs.
- Improve marketing and economic opportunities for regional producers engaged in conservation programs through the development of a marketable prairie-friendly agriculture product label.