Conserving Working Rangelands: A Social–Ecological Case Study from Northeastern Colorado
1.1. Theoretical and Conceptual Framing
1.2. Study Sites
2. Materials and Methods
2.2.1. Imagery Preprocessing
2.2.2. Land Classification Model
2.2.3. Classifier Performance and Analysis
2.3.1. Data Collection
2.3.2. Data Analysis
2.4. Integration of Quantitative and Qualitative Findings
3.1. Quanitiative Land Classification Results: Land-Cover and Use Patterns
The question is, should you even try [agriculture] in Larimer County, and some of us are trying. An example of how to make [agriculture] sustainable is dude ranching or farm experiences and charging for that. Say [the operation] has two components, an agricultural component and an entertainment component. The two fit together in a holistic way, in fact. If you’re going to farm in Larimer County, maybe you have to have an enterprise of that sort to go with [the farming]. That’s not necessarily bad. You may say, well, is it agriculture?(R8)
It is done. [Agriculture] will never be back, and of course, there are people that say that is just the way it needs to be, and we just need to move agriculture 25 miles east and figure out how to get water to them. Well, that is getting harder and harder to do.(R3)
The farms are shabby, the buildings are falling down, the fences are down, the weeds are everywhere. That is just purely because they haven’t taken care of the past, and the droughts hit them, and they didn’t have enough water. Something happened, and the economics weren’t there, and the first thing to go was pride. Once that goes, the whole farm starts deteriorating.(R1)
3.2. Qualitative Interview Results: Respondents’ Understanding of Direct Causes of Change
3.2.1. Direct Causes in the Northeastern Larimer Site
So, when we built this house, it was $250,000 or $275,000, something like that. And now they want to tax us for $750,000. So, my wife and I talked about it. It’s a nice problem in that our property has gone up in value, but now we want to stay in agriculture. As the people drive by and they see our little calves out here, and they come up and tell us our cow is dying. No, she’s lying on her side because she’s having a calf. I mean, it’s nice to have urban here. But it’s encroachment. So, can we stay in agriculture with what’s going on here? Because now our taxes go from $1500 a year to $4500 a year. So, you say, “Well, yeah, but your land…” We didn’t build this to sell it … I’m trying to make a living in agriculture, and my taxes have gone from $1500 a year to $4500 a year. I mean, in the whole scheme of things, it doesn’t break me. But now we’re talking taxes, we’re talking [a] different kind of fencing, it changes it … and Larimer County says it wants to be agriculture friendly. Does it?(R16)
You have to be careful with [open spaces] because [the creation of Soapstone Prairie Natural Area] has taken some of [the land] out of agriculture. In other words, we used to run 1200 cows, and now we run 600 cows. So, it’s cut the productivity of that in half. On the other hand, Larimer County’s working with [farmers and ranchers] in Larimer County, so I mean we’ve got a great relationship with them. Is it exactly how we would run it? Nope. On the other hand, I never let a biker pass, or a hiker pass, or a guy riding horses pass without talking to them. Hey, here’s an opportunity to tell them about cattle, or agriculture in Larimer County, or the history of this place. Because we owned it for 30 years, and I mean, it’s very seldom that it turns into anything but a positive discussion.(R16)
We do a lot of grazing on national forests, and we have these cattle drives and so on. The ability to do that has changed markedly over the last 20 years, 30 years. It’s just that there [are] twice as many people, twice as many 35-acre parcels. You know the 35-acre conundrum in Colorado … The people are getting less knowledgeable and flexible about grazing and so on.(R8)
3.2.2. Direct Causes in the Northcentral Weld Site
[The CRP] put millions of acres to the wayside. And the reason they did it was because our crops have always been a political tool within the whole world. And we just got way over-produced and [there were] so many crops that weren’t going to [be harvested]. So, they said they’d take all of [the lands that became the CRP] out of production, and then it balanced out a little bit. So maybe there was a good thought there. They were supposed to be 10-year programs, and they’d be over with. But during that time, we had the, for lack of a better word, we had the do-gooders out there [that extended the program to] 40-years. The CRP is really good for wildlife, and it’s good for the birds … And it had nothing to do with commodities. And it didn’t work for the commodity deal because I thought when this many acres went into it, the price of wheat would soar higher, and [it] didn’t. [They] actually went down. So, it didn’t work for that. Then we kept it going. It’s still going today. And we kept it going because of the preservation of wildlife. I just don’t know if the taxpayers are paying that much money to keep a sharp-tailed grouse alive. Is that important?(R19)
Husband: Oh yeah. As a ranch, we benefited from the damages. We have a way better surface amount of damage every month than most people. We’re just using that as one more way for this ranch to generate income. We’ll just take that money and put it somewhere where it will generate income down the road.
Wife: Like it helped buy the ranch in Texas.
Husband: So, if our kids need to sell something—which they will—the place down the river can sell, and it’ll be worth a lot of money.
Wife: And the oil and gas, we’re not negative toward it. We have to live with it, so you might as well.
Husband: We’ve benefited … We had a ranch that was basically a state park. We had very few roads through it, we could hardly ever drive a pickup in the pasture, four-wheelers, or side by side, and we don’t have trails. It’s one big, continuous chunk, and we locked the gates.
Wife: Used to.(R27)
Husband: Used to, and now we might have 300 vehicles on our ranch in a day.(R28)
3.3. Qualitative Interview Results: Respondents’ Identification of Underlying Causes of Change
Well, the CRP program, which it’s had positive and negative effects on the community on both sides. It just kind of depends where you sit there. [The CRP has] enabled [my parents] to retire, more or less … The check just came to the mailbox. You didn’t have to worry about a crop or anything, but then on the other side of that, they didn’t have to go out and buy any fertilizer or parts or diesel. You see what I mean? … It was a good investment, so a lot of absentee owners bought a lot of CRP land at banks. That draws quite a bit of money out of the community. So, CRP has been good, bad, both, [it] just depends [on] how it affected you. So, I don’t know. I’ve got some CRP land [of] my own. So, it’s neither here nor there. It’s been good and bad both. It just depends how you want to look at it.)(R21)
So, I drive down the road, and we’ve got cattle in the trailer, and the people from California that move here don’t understand that we go 45 miles an hour in a 50 mile an hour zone, and they do 70. When they go by here, they wave, not with all their fingers, if you get what I’m saying. So, the real encroachment is, I mean … that I don’t mind people who want to move out in the country, as long as they want to move out in the country, but they want to move out in the country and change it to where they came from. So, the little rural towns change, and then they want to annex the little rural towns.(R16)
Husband: [Drought] changes the way everybody does business. Some of the people had to liquidate their [cows], so they would no longer be a cow-calf but a yearling operator. We have had to raise different crops. We used to raise sugar beets. We had shares in Western Sugar. We were part of that co-op and were owners of that company. We had to sell [because] we didn’t have enough water to raise sugar beets. We had to decide if we were going to stay in the cattle business or if we were going to be cash farmers with beets. So, it forced us to liquidate [the beet] portion of the business. It has caused some major changes with the communities. It has caused a lot of people to move out. There are a lot of empty houses now.(R1)
Wife: Right, we have definitely seen a decline.(R2)
So, we hit another drought in the 1980s [and] things change dramatically. [The] whole system changed, and I even went to a meeting. There were bankers, farmers, everybody. It was a big crowd of people, and they were trying to explain to us that things were going to be different, but they didn’t tell us what we were going to have to do. It was like, “We know what we’re going to do. We’re going to eat you like you’re just raw meat.” And they did. A lot of farmers took a fall quick. I was able to hang on, and I came down to the point I had $60,000 in debt … Now, at that time, I had over 2000 acres of grassland, the best water, good fences, good equipment, [and] the knowledge. They wanted to foreclose. Now, you got to think about that, for $60,000.(R30)
4.1. Land Change Patterns: Cultivated to Herbaceous Cover
4.2. Ranchers’ Adaptive Strategies
4.3. Direct Driving Forces of Land Change Patterns
4.4. Underlying Driving Forces of Land Change Patterns
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
Appendix A.1. Identity
- First, what is your name and the name of your ranch/farm/operation?
- Do you yourself identify as a rancher, farmer, business/agribusiness operator, etc.?
- I am interested in the experiences of a range of producers from farmers to ranchers to agribusiness operators, and more specifically, I am interested to understand the unique roles of each of these operators. I noticed that you identified your operation as a [select title]. What does it mean to be [select title] operation versus a [select title]?
- What does it mean to be a [selected title], and how is a [select title] different from a [select title]?
- How many years have you been a [selected title], and were your parents [select title]? Note: If prompted by the participant, a lengthier discussion of family history may develop. If not, this discussion will be continued below with questions regarding succession.
Appendix A.2. Land-Use
- Can you describe your operation to me? Note: Depending upon what the individual mentions, I may follow-up with some more specific questions regarding scale?
- (If not mentioned above) What type of operation do you run, and what livestock are involved in the operation? Note: Depending upon the response of the individual, I will follow-up with questions regarding breeds, breed selection, and potentially, scale?
- In addition to livestock production, are you involved in other enterprises (e.g., hay production, tourism, construction, etc.)?
Appendix A.3. Livelihoods
- Have you experienced a major event such as drought? If yes, can you walk me through the experience?
|Event||Did You Have a Drought Plan In-Place? If Yes, Was It Useful?||Effect of the Event||Your Response||Community Response||Who Was Affected within the Household? How?||Who Was Affected within the Community? How?||What Were Some Sources of Support? Note: If Only Income-Based Support Is Mentioned, I Will Inquire More Broadly Regarding Support (e.g., Family, Church, Academic Institution)?|
- How has this experience changed you and your operation?
- Is there anything important about the drought event that I forgot to ask about?
Appendix A.4. Change
- What are the main things that have been changing in this community over the past 5 years or so? Has the economic base changed (e.g., from agriculture to oil & gas or to tourism)?
- Are the kinds of people who live in the community changing, and if so, how? Is the population size changing? If yes, why are people migrating in and out of the community? Why have you remained in the community?
- (If not discussed in the individual/identity section above) How did you become a [select title]?
- Do you have a person or institution to continue the operation of your ranch or farm once you retire? If so, who, and how did you establish the relationship with this individual?
- People have told me that ranching, farming, or more generally, a rural lifestyle can be in our DNA, passed down and maintained? How do you think ranching/farming/rural lifestyles could be maintained in the US? What do you see as the future of ranching/farming/rural lifestyles in the US?
Appendix A.5. Well-Being and Gender
- In your experience, have you observed or experienced negative changes to ranching/farming in the last 5 years? Last 10 years? Have these changes impacted your life in the last 5 years? Last 10 years?
- In your experience, have you observed or experienced positive changes to ranching/farming in the last 5 years? Last 10 years? Have these changes impacted your life in the last 5 years? Last 10 years?
- More specifically, what have been the main challenges for you and your operation over the past 5 years (e.g., labor shortage, marketing, production, etc.)? Last 10 years?
- Has your access to natural resources changed over the past 10 years (e.g., access to land, water, etc.)?
- Have you seen changes in the roles of men and women over the past 5 and 10 years, and across the last few generations? If yes, can you describe some of these changes? How have you seen the lives of women improved, and how have women become more disadvantaged? How have the lives of men improved, and how have men become more disadvantaged?
- Have you observed that certain individuals or groups of people are excluded from the benefits of the ranching/farming lifestyle? If so, which group or groups of people? Have you observed that certain individuals or groups of people have recently been welcomed into the ranching/farming lifestyle? If so, which group or groups of people?
- Are there organizations or institutions that have held you back from gaining a better living? Are there people in the community who are particularly disadvantaged by the way these organizations or institutions work? If so, which group or groups of people? Inversely, are there organizations or institutions that have helped you to gain a better living? If yes, how have they supported you?
- What changes would you like to make to your lifestyle or operation? What has held you back from making these changes? What are some opportunities that may help you achieve your desired goals?
Appendix A.6. Wrap-Up
- Is there any question or questions that you would like to ask me?
- Is there anything that I missed or should have asked?
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|NBR||Normalized Burn Ratio|
|NDVI||Normalized Difference Vegetation Index|
|NDSI||Normalized Different Snow Index|
|NDMI||Normalized Difference Moisture Index|
|B1||Thematic Mapper-equivalent Band 1|
|B2||Thematic Mapper-equivalent Band 2|
|B3||Thematic Mapper-equivalent Band 3|
|B4||Thematic Mapper-equivalent Band 4|
|B5||Thematic Mapper-equivalent Band 5|
|B7||Thematic Mapper-equivalent Band 7|
|Year||Weld Site||Larimer Site|
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Bruno, J.E.; Leisz, S.J.; Bobula, J.S.; Fernández-Giménez, M.E. Conserving Working Rangelands: A Social–Ecological Case Study from Northeastern Colorado. Land 2021, 10, 1399. https://doi.org/10.3390/land10121399
Bruno JE, Leisz SJ, Bobula JS, Fernández-Giménez ME. Conserving Working Rangelands: A Social–Ecological Case Study from Northeastern Colorado. Land. 2021; 10(12):1399. https://doi.org/10.3390/land10121399Chicago/Turabian Style
Bruno, Jasmine E., Stephen J. Leisz, Jake S. Bobula, and María E. Fernández-Giménez. 2021. "Conserving Working Rangelands: A Social–Ecological Case Study from Northeastern Colorado" Land 10, no. 12: 1399. https://doi.org/10.3390/land10121399