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Sustainable Management of Rangeland Resources

Situation: An educational programming initiative was established in this area to consider the profound influence of natural resource issues on the economy, quality of life, and "custom and culture" of Wyoming communities. Rangeland resource management and associated environmental issues permeate nearly every aspect of life in Wyoming. Livestock production is largely dependent upon native rangelands, which also provide critical wildlife habitat, water resources, oil, gas, mineral reserves, and recreational opportunities. Wyoming's current economy is closely associated with the use of renewable and nonrenewable natural resources by U.S. and global economies. As a popular tourist destination, the state acts as a reservoir of rural and wildland resources.

Wyoming natural resources are abundant and diverse. A variety of ecosystems, from near-pristine wilderness, forests, and rangelands to urban landscapes, make Wyoming a unique and inviting place. Many consider Wyoming to be in a transitional period. Our emphasis has shifted from extractive and commodity natural resource development to an attempt to sustain these industries while providing for the amenities associated with Wyoming landscapes. Demand and expectations are often conflicting when determining appropriate management strategies for Wyoming's wide-open spaces, wildlife, and public lands. Nearly half of the land in Wyoming is publicly owned, and public sentiment, management policies, and regulations continually change. The demand for science-based information, education, and technical expertise in developing sustainable management strategies, evaluating public policy, and addressing complex natural resource issues is increasing in Wyoming. UW CES is uniquely qualified to address these issues. We are connected to the university and have a non-advocacy relationship with all interests. The public must have confidence that UW CES educators and specialists are both knowledgeable and objective in their development and delivery of educational programs.

As an "upstream state" with a small population and semi-arid climate, there is critical concern in Wyoming over water resources and the increasing demand from lower basin states. Water quality and quantity policies, particularly those related to non-point source pollution, continue to be crucial statewide issues.

The integrity of Wyoming's natural resource base and the state's diverse ecosystems will be a central focus of UW CES educational programs. Natural resource related educational programs will be designed to foster an understanding of Wyoming ecosystem functions as related to the people of the state and their economic viability. Educational programs will provide science-based options for resolving environmental and natural resource management issues and will incorporate an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving and conflict resolution. Educational program development will be a collaborative effort involving the university and clientele, including landowners, federal and state agency personnel, youth, conservation interests, industry representatives, and the general public.

Goal: UW CES will be the premier source of accurate and objective educational sustainable rangeland resource management programming.

Objective: Wyoming rangeland resource issues will be addressed through an integrated educational approach to meet the complex needs of statewide clientele.

Justification: Rangeland resource issues seldom respond to purely technological or single-discipline solutions. UW CES acknowledges that social, economic, cultural, and political dimensions also must be addressed in the resolution of rangeland resource issues. An institutional structure that promotes and supports interdisciplinary approaches is necessary when developing educational programming.

Strategies:

    *      Educational needs assessment, program development and delivery, and evaluation will be accomplished by multidisciplinary rangeland resource program teams. These teams may include area extension educators, program specialists, UW faculty, stakeholders, and consultants.       
    *      Applied research, demonstrations, and educational materials will promote an integrated approach to rangeland resource issues.       
    *      State initiative teams and area rangeland resource program teams will be formed soon after the strategic plan's implementation.       
    *      Applied research and demonstration sites, with accompanying educational materials related to integrated rangeland resource management, will be established in all extension areas within three years.       
    *      Extension educators will receive in-service training opportunities to improve or maintain their knowledge of rangeland resource subject matter, current issues, and their proficiency in employing integrated management approaches.

Outcomes:
    *      Increased collaborative efforts among extension educators, faculty, clientele, and stakeholders.       
    *      Improved efficiency and effectiveness in addressing clientele needs.       
    *      Increased interaction among campus-based faculty and extension educators.       
    *      Improved communication among faculty and academic professionals.

Objective: Rangeland resource issues in Wyoming will be addressed through participation and leadership in collaborative processes (i.e., coordinated resource management).

Justification: People who have diverse interests, cultural backgrounds, values, and technical expertise are passionately involved in Wyoming rangeland resource issues. Long-term solutions to these issues are realized only when all stakeholder interests are considered. The trend for public involvement in rangeland resource management decisions is increasing, and conflicting viewpoints are becoming more apparent.

With nearly 100 active coordinated resource management groups, Wyoming is widely recognized as a leader in resolving natural resource conflicts and improving stewardship. However, implementation of collaborative processes creates a significant demand for trained and competent facilitators, technical advisors, and process participants.

Strategies:
    *      Develop and provide expertise on conflict resolution to assist individuals, firms, and agencies in addressing natural resource conflicts.
       
    *      Expand UW CES' educational role to include facilitation, technical assistance, or representation as a stakeholder in the collaborative process.
       
    *      Extension educators (independent of discipline) will receive training in conflict resolution and participation in collaborative processes. Additional discipline specific and/or facilitator training may be provided to personnel involved in natural resource conflict resolution.

Outcomes:
    *      Improved communication among participants and the development of an appreciation for other viewpoints.       
    *      Reduced rangeland resource conflicts.       
    *      Increased use of collaborative processes to address rangeland resource issues.       
    *      Reduced regulatory and litigious responses to rangeland resource issues.       
    *      Resolution of rangeland resource conflicts.       
    *      Realization that collaborative approaches are a more efficient use of public resources when compared to litigation and arbitration.

Objective: Educational programs will target non-technical audiences to increase understanding and appreciation for sustainable rangeland resource management.

Justification: Public perceptions and opinions often drive rangeland resource issues and public policy responses. Rangeland resource conflicts are perennial in the absence of balanced and objective information. Public education is a proactive approach to minimizing rangeland resource conflicts, formulating sound public policy, and mitigating existing situations. An understanding and appreciation for rangeland resources, ecological processes, and sustainable management is life enriching, and developing this attitude in young people is vital.

Strategies:
    *      Use the entire media spectrum to disseminate information regarding ecological processes, successes in sustainable management, stewardship, multiple use of rangeland resources, economic contributions of natural resource industries, and UW CES' rangeland resource programming efforts.       
    *      Promote and support educational rangeland resource programs for youth, including 4-H projects, wildlife habitat evaluation, range judging, Ag in the Classroom, and natural resource camps.       
    *      Increase access to existing rangeland resource programming by encouraging participation from nontraditional audiences.       
    *      Produce and disseminate news releases and other productions to educate the public about rangeland resources and management programs.       
    *      Review and modify, as necessary, existing written and audiovisual natural resource education materials. Create new materials as the need arises and resources allow.       
    *      Encourage broader participation in existing natural resource programming through expanded mailing lists and more effective advertising and marketing.

Outcomes:
    *      Increased appreciation, knowledge, and understanding of rangeland resource management by the general public.     
    *      Increased participation by non-technical audiences in rangeland resource issues and public policy debates.
   *      A more informed public capable of formulating an opinion on rangeland resource management issues.

Objective: Educational programs for Wyoming agricultural producers, landowners, and other rangeland resource managers will promote natural resource sustainability and stewardship.

Justification: The sustainable rangeland resource management involves economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially acceptable strategies, which also sustain the "custom and culture" of rural communities and agricultural production from natural landscapes. Sustainability is often the unacknowledged common ground between landowners, agricultural producers, conservationists, and public land managers. Extension educators are uniquely positioned to provide educational experiences that demonstrate this commonality when addressing Wyoming rangeland resource issues.

Strategies:
    *      Provide comprehensive educational programs in the following areas:
          *        Sustainable grazing management (private and public rangelands, small acreage landowners)
          *        Rangeland management and monitoring
          *        Intensive non-native pasture management
          *        Riparian management (non-point source pollution) and water quality
          *        Integrated management of invasive species on wildlands (noxious weeds, insect pests, poisonous plants, etc.)
          *            Wildlife habitat enhancement
          *        Integrated management processes
           *       State and area rangeland resource specialists will stay abreast of research progress and trends related to the above strategies and will provide up-to-date information, educational programming, newsletters, etc., in a user-friendly form for clients and extension educators.

Outcomes:
    *      Improved long-term profitability, economic stability, and property values of Wyoming ranches.       
    *      Increased adoption of sustainable rangeland resource management strategies.       
    *      Reduced spread and impact of invasive species.       
    *      Reduced non-point source pollution, improved fisheries habitat, and enhanced wildlife and recreation opportunities.       
    *      Increased implementation of rangeland monitoring programs.       
    *      Decreased influence of public policy on natural resource management decisions (monitoring information to support management strategies).       
    *      Increased implementation of integrated management strategies.       
    *      Reduced dependence upon public rangelands for livestock forage (improved economic stability).       
    *      Increased knowledge, appreciation, and understanding regarding sustainable management strategies for small acreage landowners.

Objective: UW CES will provide educational programs that address public policy influences on rangeland resource management issues in Wyoming.

Justification: Public land management policies have a profound influence on Wyoming landowners, agricultural producers, and rural communities. The majority of Wyoming ranches are dependent upon forage from federal and state lands during some portion of the annual production cycle. The economic viability of many ranches (especially in western Wyoming) is directly dependent upon forage availability.

Strategies:
    *      Rangeland resource program teams will consider current policies in needs assessment and development and implementation of educational programs.
       
    *      Specific educational programs may be developed to address existing or potential policy decisions (i.e., threatened and endangered species, grazing permit renewal, rangeland reform, standards and guidelines for grazing, consumptive use restrictions, etc.).
       
    *      UW CES will collaborate with federal and state agencies and other stakeholders to ensure timely and objective responses to public policies.
       
    *      Rangeland resource specialists and program team members will monitor public policies that affect resource use in Wyoming and the surrounding region. Specialists and team members will develop educational programs and materials to explain policies to stakeholders and the general public.
       
    *      Emerging rangeland resource and environmental issues will be addressed with as little bias as possible by newly developed educational programs, as soon as reliable information is available.

Outcomes:
    *      Reduced negative impacts of public land policies on Wyoming landowners and agricultural producers.       
    *      Increased development of sound rangeland resource management policies by land management agencies.       
   *     Increased understanding and appreciation for public land policy influence on Wyoming landowners and agricultural producers.


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