Range survey distributedWritten by Saige Albert
Emily Kachergis, a rangeland ecologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Rangeland Resources Unit in Cheyenne, is seeking to better understand the decisions that Wyoming’s agriculture community makes on a daily basis and gather information to influence rangeland policies.
ARS has partnered with UW Extension and the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) for the survey.
“This survey is an opportunity for you to tell us how and why you make decisions,” said Kachergis in a presentation at the 2011 WSGA Winter Roundup on Dec. 14. “We are interested in how land managers receive and use information and the set of factors that are most important in the grazing decision making process.”
Kachergis noted that ranch management decisions are extremely complicated with a number of factors beyond just trying to sell beef.
“The complex nature of ranch decision making is not well understood,” said Kachergis. “This survey is an opportunity to tell ARS what influences your decisions and how land managers receive and use information. It also asks about challenges related to the operation.”
“We already understand the value of ranching in Wyoming, and we really need to communicate that value to others around the nation and the world,” said Kachergis. “Society increasingly expects rangelands to produce not only beef, but also the benefits that ecosystems provide for wildlife and clean water.”
“We have talked a lot about how social and environmental conditions are changing,” said Kachergis. “We want to understand decision making and adaptation for rangeland. You are the experts, so we are coming to you.”
Kachergis also mentioned the results will be used to alert scientists as to new areas of research they should pursue and provide feedback on the policies that affect rangelands.
A similar survey conducted in California with UC Davis and the California Cattlemen’s Association found a number of interesting results, according to Kachergis.
“In the California survey, we found that ranchers really have multiple goals when they are managing rangeland,” said Kachergis. “Livestock production was number one, but close behind was invasive weed management, soil health and water quality.”
Kachergis also looked at the management practices of ranchers in California, seeing that people are adapting to local context by improving facilities and infrastructure, as well as utilizing herd management practices and vegetation management practices.
“People tend to request more information about the things that they use most,” said Kachergis of the survey findings. “This is really a chance to speak directly to researchers to tell us what we should be researching and communicating about.”
The survey also addressed incentive programs that groups used, showing EQIP and conservations easements as programs with the highest participation.
“In California, about 30 percent of people used EQIP and 10 percent used conservation easements or enrolled their land in conservation reserve programs,” said Kachergis. “All other incentive programs were minimally participated in.”
Kachergis also explained with the information, better incentive programs can be developed and policies can be influenced.
“The preliminary results from California show that decision making is complex,” Kachergis mentioned, adding that she will share preliminary results in media publications, as well as at the summer WSGA meeting, with more final results to be published in October and January.
“I’m not sure how results will shake out in Wyoming, but having healthy ecosystems is part of having a successful ranch,” said Kachergis. “We look forward to hearing from you about how we are meeting challenges.”
The survey is optional, completely anonymous and will be distributed in January.
“We really do want to know what makes you tick, what interests you, and what you want to know,” said Rachel Mealor of UW Extension. “The information truly is helpful.