Integrating Conservation and Financial Objectives on Private Rangelands in Northern Colorado: Rancher and Practitioner Perceptions
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CitationGutwein, M., & Goldstein, J. H. (2013). Integrating conservation and financial objectives on private rangelands in northern Colorado: rancher and practitioner perceptions. Rangeland Ecology & Management, 66(3), 330-338.
PublisherSociety for Range Management
JournalRangeland Ecology & Management
AbstractPayments for ecosystem services and other approaches seek to expand conservation outcomes from working ranches in rangeland systems. Making these strategies attractive to ranchers and effective in achieving conservation goals requires information that is largely lacking about the human dimensions of aligning conservation, agricultural, and financial objectives on working ranches. This exploratory study addressed this knowledge gap about perceived strategies, barriers, and opportunities by interviewing a purposive sample of 23 ranchers and natural resource practitioners (e.g., government agencies, conservation nonprofits) involved in a collaborative stakeholder group in Larimer County, Colorado. Interviewees’ responses demonstrated a wide range of potential strategies for ranchers to adopt, yet their discussion of ranch-scale and regional concerns demonstrated the multiple interlinked ecological, financial, and social factors that pose challenges for mainstreaming opportunities. All interviewees expressed interest in developing a regional payment for ecosystem services program, seeing an opportunity to simultaneously support ranchers and improve conservation stewardship. However, substantial concerns were expressed regarding possible restrictions to the ranch operation, profitability, and other management and legal factors that would diminish attractiveness to ranchers. Our findings suggest that characteristics of our study system, including proximity to urban areas and the presence of a collaborative stakeholder group, contribute importantly to the opportunities and challenges perceived by interviewees. Furthermore, interviewees’ responses highlighted how factors beyond the ranch-scale can affect the viability of ranch business strategies to achieve conservation and agricultural objectives. Future research with representative populations across rangeland systems in the American West and in contexts with and without collaborative groups will build constructively upon this exploratory study.