• Sustaining Working Rangelands: Insights from Rancher Decision Making

      Roche, L. M.; Schohr, T. K.; Derner, J. D.; Lubell, M. N.; Cutts, B. B.; Kachergis, E.; Eviner, V. T.; Tate, K. W. (Society for Range Management, 2015-09)
      Grazed rangeland ecosystems encompass diverse global land resources and are complex social-ecological systems from which society demands both goods (e.g., livestock and forage production) and services (e.g., abundant and high-quality water). Including the ranching community's perceptions, knowledge, and decision-making is essential to advancing the ongoing dialogue to define sustainable working rangelands. We surveyed 507 (33% response rate) California ranchers to gain insight into key factors shaping their decision-making, perspectives on effective management practices and ranching information sources, as well as their concerns. First, we found that variation in ranch structure, management goals, and decision making across California's ranching operations aligns with the call from sustainability science to maintain flexibility at multiple scales to support the suite of economic and ecological services they can provide. The diversity in ranching operations highlights why single-policy and management "panaceas" often fail. Second, the information resources ranchers rely on suggest that sustaining working rangelands will require collaborative, trust-based partnerships focused on achieving both economic and ecological goals. Third, ranchers perceive environmental regulations and government policies-rather than environmental drivers-as the major threats to the future of their operations. © 2015 Society for Range Management.