Ranchers’ Attitudes toward Managing for Vegetation and Landscape Heterogeneity

  •  Stephanie M. Kennedy    
  •  Mark E. Burbach    


Grasslands are imperiled due to land conversion, fragmentation, woody encroachment, population growth, and global warming. What remains of intact grasslands are vital for the ecosystem services they provide. Wildlife species native to the North American Great Plains evolved in response to very specific and differing habitats. Without variation in vegetation structure and composition (heterogeneity) the number of species that can thrive is minimized, as are the interconnected ecosystem services. Landowners’ assistance in the maintenance of grassland ecosystems is essential because Great Plains grasslands are primarily privately managed. Thus, increasing heterogeneity on working rangelands is a partial solution to balancing the needs of wildlife with that of cattle production. This study tested a predictive model of factors influencing attitudes toward heterogeneous and landscape-scale ranch management. An online survey was sent to ranchers within prescribed-burn and grazing groups in the Great Plains. Predictors of landscape-scale management were spirituality, stewardship, social descriptive norms, consideration of future consequences, and participation in grassland activities. The lone predictor of attitudes toward heterogeneous grassland management was consideration of future consequences. Even though the survey targeted groups that were more likely to be higher in heterogeneous attitudes, a vast majority are still following the “manage to the middle” paradigm. It appears these ranchers are unaware of the benefits of a heterogeneous landscape and the compatibility of its associated management techniques with their cattle production goals. To improve the adoption of techniques that promote vegetation heterogeneity, more resources should be devoted to demonstrating how these practices benefit ranchers’ cattle business alongside the larger landscape.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1927-050X
  • ISSN(Online): 1927-0518
  • Started: 2012
  • Frequency: semiannual

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