• Viewpoint: Sustaining rangeland landscapes: a social and ecological process

      Huntsinger, L.; Hopkinson, P. (Society for Range Management, 1996-03-01)
      Sustaining rangeland ecosystems is as much a social process as an ecological one. It requires application of many of the same principles as those used in planning for wildlife reserves, but the tenets of conservation biology need to be applied to conserve social as well as ecological structural elements and processes. For some rangelands, a crucial element in a sustainable, culturally meaningful, and ecologically rich landscape is ranching, which is at once a collection of ecological processes and interactions, and an expression of human community. Results of several surveys and studies are used to highlight the "culture clashes" that occur at the ecological and social edges of landscape elements. Unfortunately, differing expectations of what conserved areas should be like has hindered the creation of alliances between environmentalists and ranchers that might prevent the degradation of the landscape by uncontrolled residential and urban development. In one California case, successful planning and alliance building led to the conservation of ranchlands. Zoning, conservation easements, political and financial support for the livestock industry, community leadership, and recognition of the heritage value of rural lifeways all played a part in this success. Similar patterns have been noted in other parts of the West. To conserve some of the most productive and biodiverse rangeland landscapes, ranching must not just be tolerated as a means to an environmental end, but valued and planned for, ecologically, socially, and economically. Rangeland professionals have an important role to play in the development of sustainable social relationships that support sustainable rangelands.