Cattle ranching on the western Great Plains : a study of adaptive decision-making.
Degree: PhD, Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, 2017, Colorado State University
Ranching social-ecological systems (SESs) in the semi-arid, western Great Plains persist under highly variable inter- and intra-annual weather conditions and globally influenced markets. Ranch spatial scales and manager decision-making processes have traditionally been excluded from conventional grazing experiments, leading to considerable debate between scientists and land mangers about grazing strategies to achieve both beef production and biodiversity conservation outcomes on rangelands. In this dissertation I use collaborative, interdisciplinary methodologies to link rangeland and grazing management decision-making processes and learning with ecological outcomes in the semi-arid rangeland social-ecological systems (SESs) of Wyoming and Colorado. Chapter 2 analyzes relationships between ranchers and rangeland ecosystems, inspired by the rise of adaptive management discourses in the natural resource management literature and informed by post-colonial and feminist scholarship. Rancher decision-making processes during and after drought can be understood through an ethic of care, as ranchers try to reduce social and ecological vulnerability through adaptation, learning, and respect over long-term (generations-long) time frames. Chapter 3 follows a participatory grazing research project, the Collaborative Adaptive Rangeland Management (CARM) experiment, for four years (2012-2016). I track the social learning processes of a group of 11 stakeholders representing 3 groups: ranchers, conservation NGOs, and public agencies. These stakeholders manage 10 experimental pastures in the shortgrass steppe with comparison to the traditional grazing management practice. These pastures are managed to maintain or improve a viable cattle operation, grassland bird diversity, and rangeland vegetation structure, composition, and cover. Decisions by the stakeholder group about grazing and prescribed burning illustrate the complex role of existing management knowledge in social learning and the outcomes of participatory rangeland research. In Chapter 4, I use repeated interviews and ecological monitoring on 17 family – owned and operated ranches in eastern Colorado and eastern Wyoming to categorize different grazing management strategies and compare plant species composition outcomes across those different strategies, accounting for environmental factors. After accounting for environmental influences, using non-metric multidimensional scaling and linear mixed models, I found a reduction of perennial cool-season grasses on ranches in higher grazing stocking rates and on cow-calf/yearling operations compared to cow-calf operations, but no significant differences in plant species composition on ranches with different grazing rotation strategies or different planning styles (tacit vs. explicit planners). I classified ranches into adaptive cycle trajectories to interpret ranch decision-making in terms of ranch SES-scale resilience. In Chapter 5, I review critical social literature to reflect on…
Advisors/Committee Members: Fernandez-Gimenez, Maria E. (advisor), Derner, Justin D. (committee member), Meiman, Paul (committee member), Taylor, Peter (committee member).
Subjects/Keywords: community ecology; grazing; resilience; ethic of care; collaborative adaptive management; rancher decision-making
to Zotero / EndNote / Reference
APA (6th Edition):
Wilmer, H. (2017). Cattle ranching on the western Great Plains : a study of adaptive decision-making. (Doctoral Dissertation). Colorado State University. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10217/178856
Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):
Wilmer, Hailey. “Cattle ranching on the western Great Plains : a study of adaptive decision-making.” 2017. Doctoral Dissertation, Colorado State University. Accessed October 24, 2017.
MLA Handbook (7th Edition):
Wilmer, Hailey. “Cattle ranching on the western Great Plains : a study of adaptive decision-making.” 2017. Web. 24 Oct 2017.
Wilmer H. Cattle ranching on the western Great Plains : a study of adaptive decision-making. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. Colorado State University; 2017. [cited 2017 Oct 24].
Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/10217/178856.
Council of Science Editors:
Wilmer H. Cattle ranching on the western Great Plains : a study of adaptive decision-making. [Doctoral Dissertation]. Colorado State University; 2017. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/10217/178856