Date of Award:

11-2017

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Environment and Society

Advisor/Chair:

Mark Brunson

Abstract

Rangelands within the Great Basin are responsible for the provision of multiple resources that humans depend on for a variety of reasons. Ranchers in this region are dependent on public lands to remain economically viable in their cattle operations. As a majority of land in this region is publically owned, there are varying interests at play in what should and could be the focus of management. Ranchers are charged with implementing strategies aimed at conserving these landscapes and their motivations for what to manage may significantly influence resource provision from Intermountain West ecosystem.

In this study, I sought to understand what resources ranchers manage and why ranchers manage for certain resources. I also sought to understand operational characteristics which allow or inhibit them from managing for a suite of resources. My study population was ranchers throughout the Intermountain West who depend on public lands to graze their cattle. I utilized interviews as well as mail-in surveys to broadly understand what ranchers value about rangelands. From both qualitative and quantitative data, I found that ranchers make management decisions to encourage productivity, maintain a ranching legacy and remain autonomous in their operation. Managing to encourage these three ideals could ensure that their operations remain viable for their family in the future. I also found that based on size of operation, how active ranchers are on their operation, and how income dependent they are on their operation contribute to managing for more and a certain type of resource.

Overall, this research was designed to encourage management for a suite of resources on rangeland landscapes. Ranchers seem to manage most highly for resources directly beneficial to their operation. By educating and incentivizing ranchers to manage more broadly for resources that benefit a broader public on public lands which we all hold claim to, resilience of both human communities as well as the ecosystem itself will be enhanced.

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