• Carbon and nitrogen dynamics in elk winter ranges

      Menezes, R. S. C.; Elliott, E. T.; Valentine, D. W.; Williams, S. A. (Society for Range Management, 2001-07-01)
      Recent increases in elk (Cervus elaphus L.) herbivory and changes in hydrology towards drier conditions have contributed to declines in willow (Salix spp. L.) communities in the winter ranges for elk in Rocky Mountain National Park. In 1994, we constructed 12 large elk exclosures in 2 watersheds of the winter range for elk in the park, and conducted field experiments from 1995 to 1999 to investigate the effects of herbivory and proximity to surface water on the dynamics of C and N. Litterfall biomass averaged 65.6 and 33.0 g m(-2) inside and outside the exclosures, respectively. Elk herbivory increased (P < 0.05) N concentration of willow litter from 1.25 to 1.49%, but there were no differences in losses of C and N from litterbags placed in grazed and ungrazed plots in any of the growing seasons. Carbon losses from litterbags were higher in lower landscape positions (P = 0.001), in comparison to upper landscape positions. Shoot biomass of willow plants fertilized with N averaged 27.3 g and was higher (P < 0.05) than that of unfertilized plants, which averaged 20.2 g, indicating that N availability limits plant growth in our study sites. Elk herbivory had no effect on soil inorganic N availability, even though we estimated that the return of N to the soil in grazed plots could be as much as 265% of the N return in exclosed plots. In the long-term, greater return of N to the soil combined with increased litter quality in the grazed plots could contribute to increases in N cycling rates and availability, and these changes could affect ecosystem structure and function in the winter range for elk in Rocky Mountain National Park.
    • Ranching motivations in 2 Colorado counties

      Rowe, H. I.; Bartlett, E. T.; Swanson, L. E. (Society for Range Management, 2001-07-01)
      The objectives of this Colorado study were to assess primary reasons ranchers choose to stay or sell the ranch, compare the motivations for ranching between a traditional agriculturally based county and a rapidly developing county, and assess whether factors such as length of tenure, fiscal dependency on ranching, and dependency on public lands play roles in decisions to sell. Personal interviews were conducted with 37 ranchers. While land use conversion occurs for a wide variety of reasons, lack of heirs and detrimental public policy were important reasons given for selling ranches. Responses showed Routt County (a rapidly developing county) ranchers were more likely to sell due to land use conversion related issues than Moffat County ranchers (p = 0.056). Ranchers with a longer legacy on their land reported that profitability, having likely heirs, and continuing tradition enhanced their reasons to stay. Groups more "at risk" of selling were non-homesteading ranchers close to retirement, larger ranches, and ranchers dependent on ranching for income with declining profits. Large ranch owners experiencing land use conflicts with non-ranchers and ranchers modestly dependent on public forage experiencing changes in public policy regulations and land use conflicts also indicated a higher proclivity to sell. Noting how groups of ranchers are impacted by different changes can help refine community efforts related to land use conversion and create more thoughtful policy measures.