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Guest Opinions

Managing Diversity: Society for Range Management

Written by Windy Kelley

By Windy K. Kelley, Wyoming Section of the Society for Range Management President

The Society for Range Management (SRM) had their annual meeting in Sacramento, Calif. on Jan. 31-Feb. 6. The meeting is always a great opportunity for rangeland enthusiasts including management professionals, researchers, ranchers, educators, students and decision makers, among others, to gather to exchange information, ideas and experiences.

The society is international and participants traveled from throughout the world including Canada, Mexico, Kenya and Mongolia. This year’s meeting attracted over 1,400 participants, of which 74 were from Wyoming. The theme of the meeting was “Managing Diversity.” 

This year’s meeting went beyond exploring and discussing the diversity of rangelands themselves and incorporated the diversity of those who manage and use rangelands. The keynote speaker, Dr. Temple Grandin, built the foundation for the week in her talk about different approaches people take to solve problems and how these approaches can complement each other, and through this understanding, we can be more effective in our work as rangeland professionals.

I had the opportunity to participate on an urban open space grazing tour to the Garin Regional Park, which is a part of the East Bay Regional Park District. The tour was a perfect example of managing diversity on rangelands, including management of multiple use. The district is comprised of 65 parks – of which about half permit livestock grazing including cattle, sheep and goats. We had the good fortune to hear from the family who grazes Garin Park, and they shared some of the opportunities and challenges they face grazing on some, what I assume, of the most heavily recreated public lands in the West.

I found that many of their challenges and opportunities are similar to what Wyoming ranchers face on public lands. However, they come in a different package. 

For example, they have had fences cut or gates left open, which have allowed livestock to leave the pasture being grazed. Where do they end up? Park managers, University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Advisors and the ranchers told stories of gathering cattle from adjacent neighborhoods and six-lane highways. Sound somewhat familiar? I’m sure there are many Wyoming ranchers and land managers who could relate to a number of other stories they shared. 

The tour included a talk by Sheila Barry, UCCE Livestock and Natural Resources, advisor, who shared research she did exploring park users values, interests and perceptions of cattle grazing on parklands through social media. The study’s results suggest researchers and land managers can learn and capture input from the general public through social media, such as
FlickrTM,that we haven’t captured through traditional public input, such as public meetings or surveys. Ms. Barry suggests this information can be used to inform management decisions and create outreach and education programs. 

I think Ms. Barry’s study is interesting and has significant merit as we continue to see an increased use in technology and social media. The citation for her paper is: Barry, S. (2014). “Using Social Media to Discover Public Values, Interests, and Perceptions about Cattle Grazing on Park Lands.” Environmental Management 53: 454- 464.

I also attended a number of symposiums throughout the week. Dr. Grandin’s keynote talk was referenced a number of times including in Confronting the Management – Science Knowledge Gap to Support Natural Resource Management – an excellent session which included a discussion about providing relevant science for land managers and the role of participatory research, which are both opportunities and challenges.

There were a number of sessions focused on developing rangeland curriculum for K – 12. Dr. Doug Tolleson of the University of Arizona presented one of the talks I attended. He shared a program they developed called Range Rocks!, which provides youth and teachers hands-on experience in rangeland ecology and management at the University of Arizona’s V Bar V Ranch. The target audience of Range Rocks! goes beyond agriculture-oriented youth – recognizing the need to educate non-agriculture youth about the importance of rangelands and their role in providing ecosystem services. 

It was interesting to hear the exchange of ideas, and to think about where and how we can integrate some of these ideas into existing Wyoming programs, such as the Wyoming Section of SRM’s Wyoming Resource Education Days (WyRED) and the University of Wyoming Extension’s Summer Adventure Camp – where youth explore natural resources and related careers through an outdoor, hands-on experience.

The week was informative, and it’s always great to connect with others working on rangelands. We are fortunate to have opportunities in our home state to also connect with rangeland enthusiasts. That said, the Wyoming Section of the Society for Range Management continues to be active throughout the state. We will host the 20th annual WyRED in Uinta County on June 22 – 26, and we’re in the process of organizing our second Ecological Site Description Workshop. 

Stay tuned to the section’s website at rangelands.org/wyoming for details of these two events, and others to come. If you’re not an SRM member, and you want to learn more visit rangelands.org.