Ranching Sustainability in the Northern Great Plains: An Appraisal of Local Perspectives


Julia H. Haggerty, Mason Auger, Kathleen Epstein




In eight counties in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska characterized by high levels of intact Northern Great Plains grassland habitat, ranchers observe the following sustainability challenges: Land prices and lack of land for purchase Profitability Family succession and community change (depopulation) Notably, they do not anticipate extensive cropland conversion in the western edge of the Northern Great Plains. We observed differences in the experience of these challenges based on the ranch ownership lifecycle. In response, we recommend that conservation and government programs focused on sustainable ranching should adopt a framework for strategy and program evaluated based on the lifecycle framework. Assisting emerging ranchers, according to this research effort, will demand more than coming up with loan funds or extra forage. Rather it will mean rethinking the existing pathway that operators follow on the route from emerging to established ranchers. In addition, conservation and government programs and future research should address the impacts and patterns of land agglomeration in the Northern Great Plains.



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