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Extension study seeks ranchers’ input on grassland conservation programs

Extension study seeks ranchers’ input on grassland conservation programs

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Cattle on pasture

A newly launched study examines rancher preferences for grassland conservation programs.

A newly launched survey by Nebraska Extension seeks ranchers’ input on the design of grassland conservation programs in the state.

The survey, a partnership among Nebraska Extension, Nebraska Cattlemen’s, Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, is a targeted effort to get feedback directly from the ranchers in the state.

“What we hear from ranchers is that there is an expectation that they do can everything: be profitable, be sustainable, and be conservationists,” said Kyle Martens, the graduate student leading the study. “But when we look at the design of conservation programs nationally, local farmers and ranchers are often left out of the discussions on how these programs look and will be carried out.”

Martens and the partners hope to address this by asking ranching families to complete a brief 15-minute survey on some basic elements of conservation programs. Specifically, the study looks at the preferences for management actions, payment amounts and contract lengths in voluntary conservation programs.

“There are 22 million acres of range and pastureland in Nebraska, providing immense amounts of economic and ecological benefit,” Martens said. “Directly involving ranchers in the design process hopefully will allow us to create programs that enhance ranching family’s livelihoods while still meeting many of the conservation goals set out in the Farm Bill.”

The study is open for participation until March 30. Ranchers owning or leasing rangeland or improved pasture in Nebraska are encouraged to participate. To go to the study or find more information, visit the Nebraska Grass website.

The study is partially funded by the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and is supported by Nebraska Extension, the University of Nebraska, Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Sandhills Task Force, Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition and many private ranching operations in the state.

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