Symposia & Workshops
Agricultural Wildfire Preparedness in Rangelands
Wildfire research and prevention in rangelands has often focused on fuels management, ecological factors, and social aspects. There has been less of an emphasis placed directly on wildfire risk management and preparedness, particularly in areas intermixed with rangeland and cropland. The 2018 wildfire season in North Central Oregon burned 120,000 acres and also tragically resulted in a fatality. As a result, new statewide requirements for producers fighting wildfires were created. Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) now requires producers who are employers to have an emergency action plan for their farm, along with a firefighting action plan and fire prevention plan. In addition, employees must be educated in basic wildland firefighting. The recent increase in wildfires across the Columbia Basin and Columbia Plateau in Oregon and Washington also demonstrate that additional steps need to be implemented to decrease wildfire risk.
This symposium will present training materials to meet these new requirements, templates developed for required plans, and innovative fire prevention steps with equipment and ranch operations. Grazing is one of many great tools that will also be explored as a means to mitigate wildfire risk and create firebreaks effectively on a landscape scale. Presentations, discussions, and materials on wildfire preparedness will be relevant for dryland crop producers and ranchers.
Organizer: Jacob Powell
New Perspectives to Inform Responses to Invasive Plant Species on Rangelands
Effective management of invasive plant species remains a persistent challenge on rangelands around the world. Invasive plants can have devastating impacts on ecological conditions of rangeland ecosystems and on the economic viability of ranchers and pastoralists that rely on them for their livelihoods. Potential impacts include displacement of native plants and plant communities, reductions in biodiversity, changes in fire and other disturbance patterns, and loss of wildlife habitat. At the same time, some users of rangelands may benefit from the presence of certain invasive plant species. This complexity makes management of invasive plants particularly challenging. Rangelands are complex coupled natural-human systems that often have multiple users, complex ownership patterns, and layered policy and management systems. This symposium directly addresses this complexity.
To explore different aspects of the challenges posed by invasive plants, we offer presentations from topic experts using buffelgrass invasion in the Sonoran Desert as a case study to address the following questions:
- Why is collective action for invasive species management so difficult to achieve?
- How do public agencies respond and adapt to invasive species in real-time when faced with a crisis, and what can we learn from this for management outside of crisis?
- Is the general public willing to pay to support invasive species management on wildlands and under what circumstances?
- How does increasing ecological uncertainty resulting from climate change affect management strategies today and in the future?
The presentations addressing these questions will provide the foundation for a discussion with meeting participants about their experience with management of invasive species and how they have responded to similar questions in other contexts. This symposium will inform participants about new developments in invasive species management while also providing meeting participants the opportunity to meet (virtually) and learn from their peers through audio and video chat.
Organizer: Aaron Lien
What Has SageSTEP Learned About Sagebrush Ecosystem Recovery After 10+ Years of Post-Treatment Monitoring?
In 2006, the Sagebrush Steppe Treatment Evaluation Project (SageSTEP) began studying fuels treatments at 21 experimental sites in sagebrush-bunchgrass communities from central Washington to southwest Utah. Woodland conifers were encroaching at some sites; others were moderately invaded by cheatgrass. The study sites have been continuously monitored since implementing treatments that included mowing, burning, mastication, and herbicide application. This symposium shares some of what’s been learned after at least 10 years post-treatment. Researchers will present findings from conifer-encroached and cheatgrass-invaded sites, focusing on: effects of treatments on herbaceous plants, ground surface properties, and hydrologic and erosion processes in woodlands; and on fire behavior and Wyoming big sagebrush in shrub/grass systems, with discussion of ecological costs and benefits of treatments in those systems. A moderated discussion session will follow the presentations.
Organizer: Mark Brunson
Part 1: Map-Based Tools for Sustainable and Profitable Rangeland Management.
Many map-based tools have been launched recently, or are under development, to assist rangeland managers in decision making, for example by showing forage production and vegetation cover information across space and time. These tools target different types of users and their decisions. Some provide forecasts, while others provide near-real-time information or historical information; some show information at the county level across very large regions, while others provide information for individual pastures, but are only available for specific localities.
This two-part session is designed to foster communication among tool developers and tool users. In PART 1, invited speakers will present existing tools and ways they are being used, as well as insights on existing barriers and opportunities for the use of map-based tools. Presentations will be followed by a facilitated panel-style Q&A discussion to allow existing and prospective users to share their own decision-making stories and ask questions. The invited speakers include tool both developers and tool users and they represent a variety of different tools (Rangeland Analysis Platform, RangeSAT, Grass-Cast, Fuelcast.net, VegMachine.net, and others) and a wide range of organizations (public lands managers, conservation organizations, government extension, universities, private industry). Developers will present what their tool does and does not do, the intended user base and how it can be applied for rangeland management. Users will demonstrate an example of how they have used one or more map-based tools for making specific rangeland management decisions. Presentations will be short (5-7 minutes each) and pre-recorded to ensure plenty of time for discussion among participants. Approximately 45 minutes will be devoted to sharing the pre-recorded presentations and introducing the invited speakers, while the rest of the session (approximately 1 hour) will be devoted to the panel-style Q&A discussion.
The second session, PART 2, will be a workshop for tool developers and users to summarize and discuss feedback from the first part of the session, with a focus on improving access to and utility of map-based rangeland tools going forward. The focus will be for ‘specialists’ – both the developers/administrators of map-based tools and experienced users/practitioners – to work together to discuss how to organize and address topics, but the workshop will be open to anyone interested in attending and participating. A key goal will be to identify specific future actions that can be taken to improve access to and relevance of map-based tools. Future actions could take many different forms, for example: creating a working group to develop a new tool or feature; integrating an existing tool into an extension program or ranch operation; collaborating to link existing tools or expand a tool to cover a new region; developing strategies to get more input from underrepresented user groups, etc. Focus will be given to ensuring tools are relevant and accessible to a broad range of users.
Organizer: Sean Kearney
Grazing for Conservation: Ecological Opportunity for Ranchers at the Urban-Rural Frontier
In many parts of the country, threatened rangeland ecosystems and species persist within a patchwork of preserves, working lands, and rural low-density residential sprawl. These lands often have high ecological value, as the most productive landscapes were homesteaded first. With rangeland habitats near urban areas reduced dramatically from historic ranges and farm families struggling to remain economically viable, farmer-conservationist-researcher collaborations represent promising opportunities to protect species and support local farming communities.
This symposium will explore the aesthetic, cultural, economic, and biological values of grazing for conservation, from the vantage point of various case studies. We will present on efforts to co-manage wildlife habitat and grazing systems. A common aim of these efforts is to document how working lands contribute to species protection while sustaining agricultural values.
We will begin with a case study of a Southwest Washington rancher who has combined grass-based livestock operations with conservation work. Jake Yancey uses a combination of mowing, cross fencing and grazing to eliminate invasive species, enhance forage production, and create specific habitat niches, such as low grazed, seasonally inundated riparian pastures utilized by the endangered Oregon spotted frog. Next, Tip Hudson, a Washington State University Extension rangelands specialist will present on shrub-steppe habitat enhancement from 2007-2020 through grazing in a mixed-ownership landscape managed collaboratively with a wind utility. Coordinated grazing planning and adaptive management have led to increased plant species diversity, decreased bare ground, and increased cover. Sarah Hamman, a restoration ecologist with the Ecostudies Institute, and Stephen Bramwell, an agriculture extension agent with Washington State University, will present research from three ranches evaluating prairie species diversity and richness, with the aim of documenting habitat enhancement potential on grazed land. Through rotational grazing, spring deferment, and native seeding (termed ‘conservation grazing practices’, the native species richness on grazed farms increased with no detrimental impacts on forage, and improved soil quality parameters such as lower daily average high soil temperatures at the height of summer.
Additionally, federally threatened Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama) occupancy was nearly equivalent between ranches and prairie preserves. Kate Painter, a University of Idaho agricultural economist, will focus on the costs and tradeoffs for restoring habitat on different types of ungrazed conservation parcels, including Scotch Broom infested land, abandoned cropland and abandoned rangeland, compared to supporting critical habitat on working lands.
Organizer: Stephen Bramwell
Holistic Management and Regenerative Grazing Discussion
This symposium is designed to foster discussion on healing and managing land by use of properly managed livestock to sequester carbon, improve watershed health, help farmers/ranchers be more successful and create healthier ecosystems. This symposium and discussion will focus on two topics that illustrate the work of Roots of Resilience (non-profit http://pnchm.org/).
- Holistic Management In Action: Learn how Robert (he/him) and Cheryl Cosner (she/her)of Upper Dry Creek Ranch Weston, OR put into action the many facets of holistic management including grazing, multi-species livestock management, wildlife management, direct marketing and finance to reach their quality of life and resource goals. Cosners have learned to pivot their business model to adapt to a changed market during COVID, failure of a freezer unit, and overweight chickens. Cosners are a model of perseverance and adaptive management.
- Providing the Foundation of Training and Support for a Diverse Population of Women in Agriculture: New Cowgirl Camp is a five-day intensive course for forward-thinking women who are interested in becoming farmers or ranchers. Participants learn new skills and discover a holistic approach to farming, life, and land management. If you have been dreaming of a career in agriculture, but you did not grow up in a farming or ranching family. It can be hard to know where to start. New Cowgirl Camp provides a platform of learning from lifelong ranchers and seasoned professionals. A panel of women Regenerative grazers and New Cowgirl Camp participants share their experiences. Moderated by Dr. Sandra M Matheson DMV (she/her) and Beth Robinette MBA (she/her).
Organizer: Andrea Mann and Roots of Resilience (Non-profit Organization)