California rangelands provide society with essential services and products through ranching. Among these are natural beauty, clean water, safe haven for imperiled species, recreation, wildlife habitat, and healthy food. Most California rangelands are grazed by livestock and California’s livestock industry accounts for a $3.4 billion per year. However, ranchers often come under intense scrutiny from society to demonstrate their stewardship of the rangeland and the natural resources they manage. These pressures, along with the high economic return from subdividing and the uncertainties associated with climate change increase the temptation to sell the ranch, by which we all lose the many goods and services that rangeland provides. While some ranchers cite these pressures as reasons to leave ranching, others are strongly motivated by them to take positive steps to implement modern management practices that demonstrate to governmental and environmental groups good stewardship of their rangelands. To provide a tool for ranchers to assess sustainability, UCCE personnel working with Rancher Committee and Natural Resource Agency personnel are working on a prototype Decision Support Tool. The Decision Support Tool is being designed to help ranchers consider what they do well and where they can make improvements to help ensure the proper stewardship of their livestock and their land. The Decision Support Tool will provide a unique, innovative, and timely decision tool to inform the rancher on the best opportunity available to maintain their ranch and its resources for future generations.
As one rancher put it: “If we can teach the public what ranchers do, why they do it, and how ranching benefits the larger community, we can increase the sustainability of ranches and rangelands.” Jack Varian V-6 Ranch, Monterey County