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The role and perceived value of monitoring by rancher-led collaboratives in the interior western United States

Gold, Michaela Sylvia (2022) The role and perceived value of monitoring by rancher-led collaboratives in the interior western United States. Masters thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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Rangelands dominate the interior western U.S. where ranchers have long been the biggest land user. Due to a history of overexploitation from grazing, subsequent land degradation and complex challenges of rangeland management from fragmented landownership, there is high conflict between ranches and land management agencies. In order to deal with these challenges, a number of rancher-led collaborative groups have formed since the 1990s. These rancher-led collaboratives seek to reduce conflict by engaging a diverse set of stakeholders to make collective decisions for social, economic, and ecological problems. Due to the interdependency of ranches and rangeland function, it is important to understand the role and value of monitoring for these rancher-led collaboratives as one way to evaluate whether they use monitoring data to make better informed management decisions and allows us to see whether the outcomes of the agreed-upon management strategies by the collaborative are being achieved. Between June and August 2021, 19 interviews were conducted, representing 20 rancher-led collaboratives. Using semi-structured interviews and surveys, we explored the following questions: (1) are these collaboratives collecting monitoring data, and if so what role does it play in their work, (2) what monitoring variables they are collecting, and (3) how do they value and utilize their monitoring data. Three main trends emerged from this study: (1) Long-term trends and shorter-term monitoring data is needed to make decisions and understand the changes to the landscape as there is value in long-term trends, but also a need for shorter-term data that can be used for adaptive management. However, there is a lack of capacity and support for monitoring hindering improvements in long and short term monitoring. (2) Due to formal monitoring being limited in scope, it is important to consider utilizing informal monitoring through observations by ranchers due to the slow pace of monitoring. There is also a need for different scales of monitoring to see what is happening beyond a collaboratives scope. (3) Ranchers are interested in science and data but find it hard to form trusting relationships in order to collaboratively monitor and share data with others, a challenge these collaboratives help to overcome. This study has implications for the future of rangeland management and monitoring as there is a clear opportunity to engage with rancher-led collaboratives across the West that all saw value in monitoring but for a variety of reasons struggle to use it to its full potential.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: collaboration; monitoring; rangelands; ranchers; range management; conflict resolution
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences > School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2022 17:45
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2022 17:45
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5874

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