Managing for the middle: rancher care ethics under uncertainty on Western Great Plains rangelands

Abstract

Ranchers and pastoralists worldwide manage and depend upon resources from rangelands (which support indigenous vegetation with the potential for grazing) across Earth’s terrestrial surface. In the Great Plains of North America rangeland ecology has increasingly recognized the importance of managing rangeland vegetation heterogeneity to address conservation and production goals. This paradigm, however, has limited application for ranchers as they manage extensive beef production operations under high levels of social-ecological complexity and uncertainty. We draw on the ethics of care theoretical framework to explore how ranchers choose management actions. We used modified grounded theory analysis of repeated interviews with ranchers to (1) compare rancher decision-making under relatively certain and uncertain conditions and (2) describe a typology of practices used to prioritize and choose management actions that maintain effective stewardship of these often multi-generational ranches. We contrast traditional decision-making frameworks with those described by interviewees when high levels of environmental and market uncertainty or ecological complexity led ranchers toward use of care-based, flexible and relational frameworks for decision-making. Ranchers facing complexity and uncertainty often sought “middle-ground” strategies to balance multiple, conflicting responsibilities in rangeland social-ecological systems. For example, ranchers’ care-based decision-making leads to conservative stocking approaches to “manage for the middle,” e.g. to limit risk under uncertain weather and forage availability conditions. Efforts to promote heterogeneity-based rangeland management for biodiversity conservation through the restoration of patch burn grazing and prairie dog conservation will require increased valuation of ranchers’ care work.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Abbreviations

AUE:

Animal unit equivalent

NRCS:

United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service

References

  1. Agrawal, A. 2008. The Role of Local Institutions in Adaptation to Climate Change. Paper prepared for the Social Dimensions of Climate Change, Social Development Department, The World Bank, Washington DC, March 5-6, 2008. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/234591468331456170/pdf/691280WP0P11290utions0in0adaptation.pdf.

  2. Aldrich, D.P., and M.A. Meyer. 2015. Social capital and community resilience. American Behavioral Scientist 59 (2): 254–269.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Augustine, D.J., D.T. Booth, S.E. Cox, and J.D. Derner. 2012. Grazing intensity and spatial heterogeneity in bare soil in a grazing-resistant grassland. Rangeland Ecology and Management 65 (1): 39–46.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Augustine, D.J., and J.D. Derner. 2012. Disturbance regimes and mountain plover habitat in shortgrass steppe: Large herbivore grazing does not substitute for prairie dog grazing or fire. The Journal of Wildlife Management 76 (4): 721–728.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Augustine, D.J., J.D. Derner, and D.G. Milchunas. 2010. Prescribed fire, grazing, and herbaceous plant production in shortgrass steppe. Rangeland Ecolology and Management 63 (3): 317–323.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Augustine, D.J., S.J. Dinsmore, M.B. Wunder, V.J. Dreitz, and F.L. Knopf. 2008. Response of mountain plovers to plague-driven dynamics of black-tailed prairie dog colonies. Landscape Ecology 23 (6): 689–697.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Battiste, M., and J. Youngblood Henderson. 2000. Protecting indigenous knowledge and heritage: A global challenge. Saskatoon, SA, Canada: Purich Publishing Ltd.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Bement, R.E. 1969. A stocking-rate guide for beef production on blue-grama range. Journal of Range Management 22 (2): 83–86.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Bennett, J.W. 1969. Northern plainsmen: Adaptive strategy and agrarian life. Chicago, IL: Aldine.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Linda, Black Elk. 2016. Native science: Understanding and respecting other ways of thinking. Rangelands 38 (1): 3–4.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Bracy Knight, K., T.P. Toombs, and J.D. Derner. 2011. Cross-fencing on private US rangelands: Financial costs and producer risks. Rangelands 33 (2): 41–45.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Briske, D.D., S.D. Fuhlendorf, and F.E. Smeins. 2003. Vegetation dynamics on rangelands: A critique of the current paradigms. Journal of Applied Ecology 40 (4): 601–614. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2664.2003.00837.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Briske, D.D., N.F. Sayre, L. Huntsinger, M.E. Fernández-Giménez, B. Budd, and J.D. Derner. 2011. Origin, persistence, and resolution of the rotational grazing debate: Integrating human dimensions into rangeland research. Rangeland Ecology & Management 64 (4): 325–334.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Brunson, M.W., and E.A. Burritt. 2009. Behavioral factors in rotational grazing systems. Rangelands 31 (5): 20–25.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Brunson, M.W., and L. Huntsinger. 2008. Ranching as a conservation strategy: Can old ranchers save the new west? Rangeland Ecology & Management 61 (2): 137–147.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Bentley Brymer, A.L., D.T. Taylor, J.D. Wulfhorst, L.A. Torell, and R. Neil. 2018. Economic and social impact assessment of ranching on public lands: A guide to concepts, methods, and applications. Journal of Rangeland Applications 4: 1–16.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Charmaz, K. 2006. Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Charnley, S., T.E. Sheridan, and G.P. Nabhan. 2014. Stitching the west back together: Conservation of working landscapes. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Hill Collins, P. 2002. Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Coppock, D.L. 2011. Ranching and multiyear droughts in Utah: Production impacts, risk perceptions, and changes in preparedness. Rangeland Ecology & Management 64 (6): 607–618.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Cunfer, G., and F. Krausmann. 2015. Adaptation on an agricultural frontier: Socio-ecological profiles of Great Plains settlement, 1870–1940. Journal of Interdisciplinary History 46 (3): 355–392.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Cunfer, G., A. Watson, and J. MacFadyen. 2018. Energy profiles of an agricultural frontier: The American Great Plains, 1860–2000. Regional Environmental Change 18 (4): 1021–1032.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Curtin, D. 1991. Toward an ecological ethic of care. Hypatia 6 (1): 60–74.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Davis, K.P., D.J. Augustine, A.P. Monroe, J.D. Derner, and C.L. Aldridge. 2019. Adaptive rangeland management benefits grassland birds utilizing opposing vegetation structure in the shortgrass steppe. Ecological Applications. https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.2020.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Deloria Jr., V. 1988. Custer died for your sins: An Indian manifesto. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Derner, J.D., D.D. Briske, M. Reeves, T. Brown-Brandl, M. Meehan, D. Blumenthal, W. Travis, D.J. Augustine, H. Wilmer, J.D. Scasta, J. Henderickson, J. Volesky, L. Edwards, and D.E. Peck. 2018. Vulnerability of grazing and confined livestock in the northern Great Plains to projected mid-and late-twenty-first century climate. Climatic Change 146 (1–2): 19–32.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Derner, J.D., J.K. Detling, and M.F. Antolin. 2006. Are livestock weight gains affected by black-tailed prairie dogs? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 4 (9): 459–464.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Derner, J.D., and D.J. Augustine. 2016. Adaptive management for drought on rangelands. Rangelands 38 (4): 211–215.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Derner, J.D., R.H. Hart, M.A. Smith, and J.W. Waggoner. 2008. Long-term cattle gain responses to stocking rate and grazing systems in northern mixed-grass prairie. Livestock Science 117 (1): 60–69.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Derner, J.D., W.K. Lauenroth, P. Stapp, and D.J. Augustine. 2009. Livestock as ecosystem engineers for grassland bird habitat in the western Great Plains of North America. Rangeland Ecology & Management 62 (2): 111–118.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Didier, E.A., and M.W. Brunson. 2004. Adoption of range management innovations by Utah ranchers. Journal of Range Management 57 (4): 330–336.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Dominelli, L. 2013. Mind the gap: Built infrastructures, sustainable caring relations, and resilient communities in extreme weather events. Australian Social Work 66 (2): 204–217.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Dunn, B.H., A.J. Smart, R.N. Gates, P.S. Johnson, M.K. Beutler, M.A. Diersen, and L.L. Janssen. 2010. Long-term production and profitability from grazing cattle in the northern mixed grass prairie. Rangeland Ecology and Management 63 (2): 233–242.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Easdale, M.H., and S.E. Domptail. 2014. Fate can be changed! Arid rangelands in a globalizing world–A complementary co-evolutionary perspective on the current ‘desert syndrome’. Journal of Arid Environments 100: 52–62.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Ellis, C. 2013. The symbiotic ideology: Stewardship, husbandry, and dominion in beef production. Rural Sociology 78 (4): 429–449.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Fernández-Giménez, M.E., B. Batkhishig, B. Batbuyan, and T. Ulambayar. 2015. Lessons from the dzud: Community-based rangeland management increases the adaptive capacity of Mongolian herders to winter disasters. World Development 68: 48–65. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2014.11.015.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Fernández-Giménez, M.E., L.B. Jennings, and H. Wilmer. 2018. Poetic inquiry as a research and engagement method in natural resource science. Society and Natural Resources. https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2018.1486493.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Flanagan, O., and K. Jackson. 1987. Justice, care, and gender: The “Kohlberg-Gilligan” debate revisited. Ethics 97 (3): 622–637.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Ford, M.R., and C.R. Lowery. 1986. Gender differences in moral reasoning: A comparison of the use of justice and care orientations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 50 (4): 777–783.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Fuhlendorf, S.D., and D.M. Engle. 2001. Restoring heterogeneity on rangelands: ecosystem management based on evolutionary grazing patterns: We propose a paradigm that enhances heterogeneity instead of homogeneity to promote biological diversity and wildlife habitat on rangelands grazed by livestock. BioScience 51 (8): 625–632.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Fuhlendorf, S.D., D.M. Engle, R.D. Elmore, R.F. Limb, and T.G. Bidwell. 2012. Conservation of pattern and process: Developing an alternative paradigm of rangeland management. Rangeland Ecology & Management 65 (6): 579–589.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Fuhlendorf, S.D., W.C. Harrell, D.M. Engle, R.G. Hamilton, C.A. Davis, and D.M. Leslie Jr. 2006. Should heterogeneity be the basis for conservation? Grassland bird response to fire and grazing. Ecological Applications 16 (5): 1706–1716.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Fulton, A., F. Vanclay, D. Pannel, and F. Vanclay. 2011. Enabling change in family farm businesses. Changing land management, 95–106. Collingwood, VIC, Australia: CSIRO.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Galvin, K.A., R.S. Reid, M.E. Fernández-Giménez, D. ole Kaelo, B. Baival, and M. Krebs. 2016. Co-design of transformative research for rangeland sustainability. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 20: 8–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2016.03.003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Gibson, D.J. 2009. Grasses and grassland ecology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Gilligan, C. 1982. In a different voice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Glaser, B.G., and A.L. Strauss. 2017. Discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Glesne, C. 1992. Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction. White Plains, N.Y.: Longman.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Gosnell, H., and J. Abrams. 2011. Amenity migration: Diverse conceptualizations of drivers, socioeconomic dimensions, and emerging challenges. GeoJournal 76 (4): 303–322.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Hamilton, T.W., J.P. Ritten, C.T. Bastian, J.D. Derner, and J.A. Tanaka. 2016. Economic impacts of increasing seasonal precipitation variation on southeast Wyoming cow-calf enterprises. Rangeland Ecology & Management 69 (6): 465–473.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Haraway, D.J. 1988. Situated knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. Feminist studies 14 (3): 575–599.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Haraway, D.J. 2003. The companion species manifesto: Dogs, people, and significant otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Harding, S. 2006. Science and social inequality: Feminist and postcolonial issues. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Held, V. 1995. The meshing of care and justice. Hypatia 10 (2): 128–132.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Herman, A. 2015. Enchanting resilience: Relations of care and people–place connections in agriculture. Journal of Rural Studies 42: 102–111.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Holling, C.S., and L.H. Gunderson. 2002. Resilience and adaptive cycles. Panarchy: Understanding transformations in human and natural systems. Washington, DC: Island Press.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Holling, C.S., and G.K. Meffe. 1996. Command and control and the pathology of natural resource management. Conservation Biology 10 (2): 328–337.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Holloway, L. 2002. Smallholding, hobby-farming, and commercial farming: ethical identities and the production of farming spaces. Environment and Planning A 34 (11): 2055–2070.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Hovick, T.J., R.D. Elmore, and S.D. Fuhlendorf. 2014. Structural heterogeneity increases diversity of non-breeding grassland birds. Ecosphere 5 (5): 62. https://doi.org/10.1890/ES14-00062.1.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Hruska, T., D. Toledo, R. Sierra-Corona, and V. Solis-Gracia. 2017. Social–ecological dynamics of change and restoration attempts in the Chihuahuan Desert grasslands of Janos Biosphere Reserve. Mexico. Plant Ecology 218 (1): 67–80. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-016-0692-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Huang, R. 2016. R-based qualitative data analysis. http://rqda.r-forge.r-project.org/.

  62. Huntsinger, L., L. Buttolph, and P. Hopkinson. 1997. Ownership and management changes on California hardwood rangelands: 1985 to 1992. Journal of Range Management 50 (4): 423.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Irisarri, J.G., J.D. Derner, J.P. Ritten, and D.E. Peck. 2019. Beef production and net revenue variability from grazing systems on semiarid grasslands of North America. Livestock Science 220: 93–99.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Jaggar, A.M. 2015. Just methods: An interdisciplinary feminist reader. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Johnson, J.T., and B. Murton. 2007. Re/placing native science: Indigenous voices in contemporary constructions of nature. Geographical Research 45 (2): 121–129.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Joseph, J. 2013. Resilience as embedded neoliberalism: A governmentality approach. Resilience 1 (1): 38–52.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Joshi, O., T.A. Becerra, D.M. Engle, S.D. Fuhlendorf, and R.D. Elmore. 2017. Factors affecting public preferences for grassland landscape heterogeneity in the Great Plains. Environmental Management 60 (5): 922–930.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Joyce, L.A., D.D. Briske, J.R. Brown, H.W. Polley, B.A. McCarl, and D.W. Bailey. 2013. Climate change and North American rangelands: Assessment of mitigation and adaptation strategies. Rangeland Ecology & Management 66 (5): 512–528.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Kachergis, E., J.D. Derner, B.B. Cutts, L.M. Roche, V.T. Eviner, M.N. Lubell, and K.W. Tate. 2014. Increasing flexibility in rangeland management during drought. Ecosphere 5 (6): 1–14.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Knapp, C.N., and M.E. Fernández-Giménez. 2008. Knowing the land: A review of local knowledge revealed in ranch memoirs. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 61 (2): 148–155.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Knight, R.L. 2007. Ranchers as a keystone species in a West that works. Rangelands 29 (5): 4–9.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Knopf, F.L., and F.B. Samson. 1997. Conservation of grassland vertebrates. Ecology and conservation of Great Plains vertebrates. New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  73. Lai, P., and U.P. Kreuter. 2012. Examining the direct and indirect effects of environmental change and place attachment on land management decisions in the Hill Country of Texas, USA. Landscape and Urban Planning 104 (3–4): 320–328.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Lawson, V. 2007. Geographies of care and responsibility. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 97 (1): 1–11.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Lawson, V. 2009. Instead of radical geography, how about caring geography? Antipode 41 (1): 210–213.

    Google Scholar 

  76. Leopold, A. 1949. A sand county almanac and sketches here and there. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  77. Lien, A.M., C. Svancara, W. Vanasco, G.B. Ruyle, and L. López-Hoffman. 2017. The land ethic of ranchers: A core value despite divergent views of government. Rangeland Ecology & Management 70 (6): 787–793.

    Google Scholar 

  78. Lincoln, Y.S., and E.G. Guba. 1986. But is it rigorous? Trustworthiness and authenticity in naturalistic evaluation. New directions for program evaluation 1986 (30): 73–84.

    Google Scholar 

  79. Lubell, M.N., B.B. Cutts, L.M. Roche, M. Hamilton, J.D. Derner, E. Kachergis, and K.W. Tate. 2013. Conservation program participation and adaptive rangeland decision-making. Rangeland Ecology & Management 66 (6): 609–620.

    Google Scholar 

  80. Lund, C. 2014. Truth comes out. On Conterfeit Blues. Nashville: New West.

    Google Scholar 

  81. MacDonald, J.M., and W.D. McBride. 2009. The transformation of US livestock agriculture scale, efficiency, and risks. Economic Information Bulletin. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1354028.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  82. Marshall, N.A. 2010. Understanding social resilience to climate variability in primary enterprises and industries. Global Environmental Change 20 (1): 36–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2009.10.003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  83. Marshall, N.A. 2016. Adaptive capacity on the northern Australian rangelands. Rangeland Journal 37 (6): 617–622.

    Google Scholar 

  84. Marshall, N.A., and A. Smajgl. 2013. Understanding variability in adaptive capacity on rangelands. Rangeland Ecology & Management 66 (1): 88–94.

    Google Scholar 

  85. Marshall, N.A., and C.J. Stokes. 2014. Influencing adaptation processes on the Australian rangelands for social and ecological resilience. Ecology and Society 19 (2): 14.

    Google Scholar 

  86. Milchunas, D.G., and W.K. Lauenroth. 1993. Quantitative effects of grazing on vegetation and soils over a global range of environments. Ecological Monographs 63 (4): 327–366. https://doi.org/10.2307/2937150.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  87. Milchunas, D.G., O.E. Sala, and W.K. Lauenroth. 1988. A generalized model of the effects of grazing by large herbivores on grassland community structure. The American Naturalist 132 (1): 87–106.

    Google Scholar 

  88. Morse, J.M., M. Barrett, M. Mayan, K. Olson, and J. Spiers. 2008. Verification strategies for establishing reliability and validity in qualitative research. International journal of qualitative methods 1 (2): 13–22.

    Google Scholar 

  89. Noddings, N. 1984. Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  90. Noy, C. 2008. Sampling knowledge: The hermeneutics of snowball sampling in qualitative research. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 11 (4): 327–344.

    Google Scholar 

  91. Oeberst, A., J. Kimmerle, and U. Cress. 2016. What is knowledge? Who creates it? Who possesses it? The need for novel answers to old questions. Mass collaboration and education. New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  92. Otkin, J.A., M.C. Anderson, C. Hain, M. Svoboda, D. Johnson, R. Mueller, T. Tadesse, B. Wardlow, and J. Brown. 2016. Assessing the evolution of soil moisture and vegetation conditions during the 2012 United States flash drought. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 218: 230–242.

    Google Scholar 

  93. Plumwood, V. 1991. Nature, self, and gender: Feminism, environmental philosophy, and the critique of rationalism. Hypatia 6 (1): 3–27.

    Google Scholar 

  94. Porensky, L.M., J.D. Derner, D.J. Augustine, and D.G. Milchunas. 2017. Plant community composition after 75 yr of sustained grazing intensity treatments in shortgrass steppe. Rangeland Ecology & Management 70 (4): 456–464. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2016.12.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  95. Prokopy, L.S., K. Floress, J.G. Arbuckle, S.P. Church, F.R. Eanes, Y. Gao, B.M. Gramig, P. Ranjan, and A.S. Singh. 2019. Adoption of agricultural conservation practices in the United States: Evidence from 35 years of quantitative literature. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 74 (5): 520–534.

    Google Scholar 

  96. Ragin, C.C. 2014. The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies. Oakland: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  97. Reeves, J.L., J.D. Derner, M.A. Sanderson, M.K. Petersen, L.T. Vermeire, J.R. Hendrickson, and S.L. Kronberg. 2013. Temperature and precipitation affect steer weight gains differentially by stocking rate in northern mixed-grass prairie. Rangeland Ecology and Management 66 (4): 438–444.

    Google Scholar 

  98. Ritten, J.P., W.M. Frasier, C.T. Bastian, and S.T. Gray. 2010. Optimal rangeland stocking decisions under stochastic and climate-impacted weather. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 92 (4): 1242–1255.

    Google Scholar 

  99. Rizza, C., and A. Guimarães Pereira. 2014. Building a resilient community through social network: Ethical considerations about the 2011 Genoa floods. In Proceedings of the 11th International ISCRAM Conference- University Park, Pennsylvania, USA, eds. S.R. Hilz, M.S. Pfaff, L. Plotnick, and P.C. Shih.

  100. Roche, L.M., B.B. Cutts, J.D. Derner, M.N. Lubell, and K.W. Tate. 2015. On-ranch grazing strategies: Context for the rotational grazing dilemma. Rangeland Ecology & Management 68 (3): 248–256.

    Google Scholar 

  101. Roche, L.M. 2016. Adaptive rangeland decision-making and coping with drought. Sustainability 8 (12): 1334.

    Google Scholar 

  102. Roesch-McNally, G., J.G. Arbuckle, and J.C. Tyndall. 2018. Soil as social-ecological feedback: Examining the “ethic” of soil stewardship among corn belt farmers. Rural Sociology 83 (1): 145–173.

    Google Scholar 

  103. Ruff, S.P., D. Ee Peck, C.T. Bastian, and W.E. Cook. 2016. Economics of transitioning from a cow-calf-yearling operation to a stocker operation. Journal of ASFMRA 55–76.

  104. Ruppert, J.C., K. Harmoney, Z. Henkin, H.A. Snyman, M. Sternberg, W. Willms, and A. Linstädter. 2015. Quantifying drylands’ drought resistance and recovery: The importance of drought intensity, dominant life history and grazing regime. Global Change Biology 21 (3): 1258–1270.

    Google Scholar 

  105. Sayre, N.F., and M.E. Fernández-Giménez. 2003. The genesis of range science, with implications for current development policies. Proceedings of the 7th International Rangelands Congress, Durban, South Africa, N. Allsopp, A.R. Palmer, S.J. Milton, K.P. Kirman, G.I.H. Kerley, C.R. Hurt, C.J. Brown, eds.

  106. Sayre, N.F. 2004. Viewpoint: The need for qualitative research to understand ranch management. Rangeland Ecology and Management 57 (6): 668–674.

    Google Scholar 

  107. Sayre, N.F. 2017. The politics of scale: A history of rangeland science. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  108. Sayre, N.F., D.K. Davis, B. Bestelmeyer, and J.C. Williamson. 2017. Rangelands: Where anthromes meet their limits. Land 6 (2): 31.

    Google Scholar 

  109. Shisler, R.C., and J. Sbicca. 2019. Agriculture as carework: The contradictions of performing femininity in a male-dominated occupation. Society and Natural Resources 32 (8): 875–892.

    Google Scholar 

  110. Sierra-Corona, R., A. Davidson, E.L. Fredrickson, H. Luna-Soria, H. Suzan-Azpiri, E. Ponce-Guevara, and G. Ceballos. 2015. Black-tailed prairie dogs, cattle, and the conservation of North America’s arid grasslands. PLoS ONE 10 (3): e0118602.

    Google Scholar 

  111. Skagen, S.K., D.J. Augustine, and J.D. Derner. 2018. Semi-arid grassland bird responses to patch-burn grazing and drought. The Journal of Wildlife Management 82 (2): 445–456. https://doi.org/10.1002/jwmg.21379.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  112. Sorice, M.G., J.R. Conner, U.P. Kreuter, and R.N. Wilkins. 2012. Centrality of the ranching lifestyle and attitudes toward a voluntary incentive program to protect endangered species. Rangeland Ecology & Management 65 (2): 144–152.

    Google Scholar 

  113. Sorice, M.G., U.P. Kreuter, B.P. Wilcox, and W.E. Fox. 2014. Changing landowners, changing ecosystem? Land-ownership motivations as drivers of land management practices. Journal of Environmental Management 133: 144–152.

    Google Scholar 

  114. Specht, J. 2019. Red meat republic: A hoof-to-table history of how beef changed America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  115. Sun, D., P. Hyland, and O. Bosch. 2014. A systemic view of innovation adoption in the Australian beef industry. Systems Research and Behavioral Science 32: 646–657. https://doi.org/10.1002/sres.2251.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  116. TallBear, K. 2017. Beyond the life/not life binary: A feminist-indigenous reading of cryopreservation, interspecies thinking and the new materialisms. In Cryopolitics: Frozen life in a melting world, ed. J. Randin and E. Kowal, 179–202. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  117. Tews, J., U. Brose, V. Grimm, K. Tielbörger, M.C. Wichmann, M. Schwager, and F. Jeltsch. 2004. Animal species diversity driven by habitat heterogeneity/diversity: The importance of keystone structures. Journal of Biogeography 31 (1): 79–92.

    Google Scholar 

  118. Toombs, T.P., and M.G. Roberts. 2009. Are natural resources conservation service range management investments working at cross-purposes with wildlife habitat goals on western United States rangelands? Rangeland Ecology & Management 62 (4): 351–355.

    Google Scholar 

  119. Torell, L.A. 2010. Economics of flexible versus conservative stocking strategies to manage climate variability risk. Rangeland Ecology and Management 63 (4): 415–425.

    Google Scholar 

  120. Torell, L.A., N.R. Rimbey, J.A. Tanaka, and S.A. Bailey. 2001. The lack of a profit motive for ranching: implications for policy analysis. Current Issues in Rangeland Resource Economics: Symposium Proceedings (2001) 16629, Western Regional Coordinating Committee on Rangeland Economics: WCC-55. https://doi.org/10.22004/ag.econ.16629.

  121. Tronto, J.C. 1994. Moral boundaries: A political argument for an ethic of care. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  122. Tronto, J.C. 1999. Care ethics: Moving forward. Hypatia 14 (1): 112–119.

    Google Scholar 

  123. Tuhiwai Smith, L. 2013. Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  124. Turner, B.L., M. Wuellner, T. Nichols, and R. Gates. 2014. Dueling land ethics: Uncovering agricultural stakeholder mental models to better understand recent land use conversion. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 27 (5): 831–856.

    Google Scholar 

  125. Twidwell, D., B.W. Allred, and S.D. Fuhlendorf. 2013. National-scale assessment of ecological content in the world’s largest land management framework. Ecosphere 4 (8): 1–27.

    Google Scholar 

  126. USDA NASS. 31 May 2019. Prices received for cattle by month, United States. www.nass.usda.gov/Charts_and_Maps/Agricultural_Prices/priceca.php.

  127. Warren, K.J. 1987. Feminism and ecology: Making connections. Environmental ethics 9 (1): 3–20.

    Google Scholar 

  128. White, C., and C. Conley. 2007. Grassbank 2.0. Rangelands 29 (3): 27–31.

    Google Scholar 

  129. Whyte, K.P., and C.J. Cuomo. 2016. Ethics of caring in environmental ethics. The Oxford handbook of environmental ethics, 234. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  130. Wilmer, H., D.J. Augustine, J.D. Derner, M.E. Fernández-Giménez, D.D. Briske, L.M. Roche, K.W. Tate, and K.E. Miller. 2018. Diverse management strategies produce similar ecological outcomes on ranches in western Great Plains: Social-ecological assessment. Rangeland Ecology and Management 71 (5): 626–636. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2017.08.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  131. Wilmer, H., and M.E. Fernández-Giménez. 2016. Voices of Change: Narratives from ranching women of the southwestern United States. Rangeland Ecology and Management 69 (2): 150–158. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2015.10.010.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  132. Wilmer, H., and M.E. Fernández-Giménez. 2015. Rethinking rancher decision-making: A grounded theory of ranching approaches to drought and succession management. The Rangeland Journal 37 (5): 517–528.

    Google Scholar 

  133. Wintle, B.A., H., Kujala, A. Whitehead, A. Cameron, S. Veloz, A. Kukkala, A. Moilanen, A. Gordon, P.E. Lentini, P.E., N.C. Cadenhead and S.A. Bekessy. 2019. Global synthesis of conservation studies reveals the importance of small habitat patches for biodiversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (3): 909–914.

  134. Wylie, J. 2017. Vanishing points: An essay on landscape, memory and belonging. Irish Geography 50 (1): 3–18.

    Google Scholar 

  135. York, E.C., M.W. Brunson, and K.B. Hulvey. 2019. Influence of ecosystem services on management decisions by public land ranchers in the intermountain west, United States. Rangeland Ecology & Management 72 (4): 721–728.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors appreciate Dr. Emily Kachergis who helped initiate the research, developed the study design and collected data in Wyoming in 2012, and Dr. Kachergis, Dr. Paul Meiman, Brad Palmer, Dr. David Briske, Dr. Tracy Hruska, Julie Kennedy, Sam Cannon and Dr. David Augustine for helpful comments on the study and/or manuscript. Research assistance provided by Pam Freeman, Nicole Kaplan and Shakota Dilley. Funding provided by: USDA-ARS; USDA-NIFA AFRI awards 2009-04442 and 2012- 38415-20328, Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station project COLO0698; Western Sustainable Agriculture, Research, and Education program (Project Number SW10-073); and the Center for Collaborative Conservation Fellows Program at Colorado State University.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hailey Wilmer.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wilmer, H., Fernández-Giménez, M.E., Ghajar, S. et al. Managing for the middle: rancher care ethics under uncertainty on Western Great Plains rangelands. Agric Hum Values 37, 699–718 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-019-10003-w

Download citation

Keywords

  • Grasslands
  • Agriculture
  • Decision-making
  • Heterogeneity
  • Beef cow-calf
  • Production and conservation tradeoffs
  • Complexity