AoR 34: Lynn Huntsinger, Forests, Rangelands, Fires, and Grazing . . . For the Trees?

This talk was recorded at the Society for Range Management annnual meeting and training February 2020. The talk is from a symposium titled "Strategies for sustainability transformations in western rangelands." Lynn's presentation is available as a PDF here. h Ranching and rangelands are undergoing rapid and intertwined changes. Changes include 1) ecological transitions due to climate and invasive species; 2) land use transitions associated with urbanization and shifting priorities for public lands; 3) demographic transitions reflected in the increasing average age and decreasing number of ranchers; 3) market transitions associated with changing consumer attitudes and globalized markets, and 4) technological transitions with advances in wireless and sensor technologies and access to “big data”. in this symposium, we ask: how can we direct inevitable change in desirable ways? Through these changes, how can we sustain the flow of rangeland products to consumers and improve environmental conditions in order to maintain or increase the well-being of those who live, work, and recreate on rangelands? 


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>> Welcome to the Art of Range, a podcast focused on rangelands and the people who manage them. I'm your host Tip Hudson, range, and livestock specialist with Washington State University Extension. The goal of this podcast is education and conservation through conversation. Find us online at

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>> We are reproducing some of the symposium and plenary sessions from the Society for Range Management's 2020 annual meeting and training in Denver for the podcast. These were recorded live on February 17 through 20. I selected sessions in consultation with the meeting and technical program chairs that we believe would be widely applicable and that would not depend heavily on the listener being able to see the accompanying slideshow with photographs and charts. With the speaker's permissions we will provide contact information for each speaker so that you can request additional information from them directly if you are especially interested in their topic. This is the 2nd episode from a symposium titled strategies for sustainability transformations in western rangelands. Ranching and rangelands are undergoing rapid and intertwining changes. Changes include ecological transitions due to climate and invasive species, land use transitions associated with urbanization and shifting priorities for public lands, demographic transitions reflected in the increasing average age and decreasing number of ranchers, market transitions associated with changing consumer attitudes and globalized markets and technological transitions with advances in wireless and sensor technologies and access to big data. In this symposium, the speakers ask and answer the questions how can we direct inevitable change in desirable ways and how can we sustain the flow of rangeland products to consumers and improve environmental conditions in order to maintain or increase the wellbeing of those who live and work and recreate on rangelands. In a separate episode we, we provided the audio from Dr. Sarah Place and Dr. Andre Sibbles. Dr. Place talked about strategic connections between rural producers and urban consumers and Dr. Andre Sibbles talked about precision technology and other adaptation strategies in ranching systems. In this episode we present the audio from Dr. Lynn Huntsinger from University of California Berkley speaking on collaborative planning for diverse land uses in changing rangelands.

>> So, our next speaker is Dr. Lynn Huntsinger. She's a professor of rangeland ecology and management, the [inaudible] chair at University of California Berkley and not coincidentally is going to be rewarded the WR Chapline Research Award tomorrow, I think. Thank you.

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>> I mean after a few years of wearing masks in the summer and having to change our air filters every other day and looking at the loss of life in California and the incredible burning of my taxpayer dollars summer after summer, I decided to talk about fire. I'm all heated up about it. So, I'm going to talk about what I see as the unfortunate transformations happening on rangelands in California. These are ecological transformations that are very much driven by people, by their values, by their choices, by their outlook and have been for some time driven by political and cultural features of our way of life, of colonists, of immigrants to America who saw it very differently from the native peoples. But this is not just a North American issue, it's a North American continent issue, its' a global issue in many parts of the world. So, I'm going to take you on a little tour of this problem and some of the solutions I think there might be out there. Basically, I get a little bit ticked off every time I read about fire and the wildfire problem in the west and livestock grazing is never mentioned as a possible way of transforming our rangelands to make them more climate adapted. So, I'll talk a little bit about this now, in fact, that's what I'm supposed to do, right. All right. So, this is Australia. This year, the biggest, nastiest fire year in history in Australia, recorded history, and also the hottest year on record in Australia. Australia has a long history of suppressing the burning of indigenous people on the continent, new protecting forests from disturbance and from people and that's all coming back to haunt us now. Australia is a Mediterranean climate like we have in California, it's hot and dry 8 or 9 months of no rain at all is normal in California and in the Mediterranean parts of the world. So, Mediterranean parts of the world are 1 of the first places we see changes due to what I'm going to argue is management as well as climate change. So, Australia's hottest year on record, biggest fire year. Portugal and Europe. These fires in Portugal in 2017 were huge. More than 100 people died. Most of them in their cars. Millions of acres burned. A lot of this burning is taking place in forest plantations planted by people. I'll talk a little bit about the background of that. Other places, even in Sweden, are having fire issues today and a lot of that is about losing cultural forms of management just like in California, just like in the southern Europe, just like in Australia and so many places. In fact, this burning thing in Europe has led to a paper that was published in Nature not long ago, or Science I guess, saying that in the past 250 years trees have been planted in Europe and recently it seems that the forests, these forest plantations are turning into forest carbon sources, not carbon sinks and there's a huge drive to plant trees because of their role in sequestering carbon and as carbon sinks. But in many places in the world, they're becoming the opposite, they're becoming sources of carbon dioxide. This is California. Seems like dead cars in a fire zone are common. This speaks to our failing to plan for a fire, to allow people enough ways to get out and to escape a fire and also to how fast and how devastating these fires are today. The Camp Fire in California killed dozens of people, mostly elderly and disabled people who couldn't get out of the fire zone in time. The fire burned 153,000 plus acres, almost 240 square miles and destroyed over 18,000 structures in 2018. This fire started in an area that had burned 13 times previously in the last few decades. It had also been logged in 2016 and if you take Google Earth and you look at the community where it started, you can see that an effort has been made to do something but simply not effective planning, the roads are too small, the people couldn't get out, their houses are mixed in with vegetation too. And when I say taxpayer dollars, the damage here is something like 16.5 billion dollars. Caused our electric utility to go out of business because sparks were the source of this fire. In California we have the most fires in the United States. In 2018, more than 8,000 fires, more than 1.8 billion acres burned. That disturbs me a lot. What's happening to that 1.8 billion acres from just 2018. We burned massive areas last year. We burned massive areas in 217. What's happening to that land now? If [inaudible] can burn 13 times in the last few decades, what's going to happen to this land? It's turning into brush rapidly and these fires don't just cause black ecosystems. They're also devastating to the people who live there and to the communities that depend on those forests and use those forests. We did some interviews with people whose forest had burned down and they're in large part emotionally devastated. They long for the past when the environment was a forest. We call that solastalgia interestingly enough. So, anyway we continue to have fires every summer now. Of course, fire is unreliable, maybe we won't have any this year. This is Spain. This is Australia. People again are profoundly affected. This is the Camp Fire. I visited it this year. This is what it looks like today in the Camp Fire area up in northeastern California. California does have a Mediterranean climate like Australia, like Portugal, like Spain. It's very dry inside that zone near the coast again, which helps and as you can see, year after year our fires have been, they've shown a definite trend of increasing size and heat and intensity of the fires that we're having in California.

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>> And in fact, these fires are producing so much carbon. The carbon that they've produced through emissions is 9 times as much as all of California's carbon sequestration efforts have saved or all our efforts to reduce carbon emissions. We lost 9 times more than that then we saved in 2017 from the fires in 2018. So, it puts [inaudible] to efforts to sequester carbon. A lot of that is through forests and now a recent paper in environmental research letters says that the typical tree in California doesn't have much chance today of surviving 100 years without burning and because of that it doesn't qualify under the IPCC as sequestered carbon anymore. We released more metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2018 than it took more than the emissions from all of our electricity generation in previous years. Plantation forests in Europe, there's a lot of them. Some of them are still being planted around the world in an effort to sequester more carbon and they're being planted with species and in places where it's inappropriate, as what was done in Portugal. Portugal is 10% eucalyptus plantations and they rapidly burn. Burning also releases, in addition to carbon dioxide, black carbon and smoke and recent evidence suggests that the impact to the human immune system is not trivial. In a study of primates, it was found to persist for 12 years when young primates were exposed to smoke and to be passed on to their children, these lowered immune systems. Black carbon goes into the atmosphere, it rises to very high levels, it lasts for quite some time. It influences climate all over the world. So, what's causing this transition away from sustainability? I've talked about it a little. I'll talk about it more now. Part of it is a government obsession with protecting forests that all of these countries share in their history. Early on, around the time of the Norman conquest in Europe, huge areas of forests were set aside for hunting for royalty and for nobles. Then when trees became a military and economic good in the 18th century, governments started, marquis, kings, whatever started preserving forests in order to grow tall timbers and thick timbers that could be used for warships and for other military and economic purposes. Another goal is to eliminate a perceived degradation of what people were doing in forests. We see that in the United States. We always talk about that. That's one of the origins of our land management system and now, increasingly to sequester carbon. In California our native people, we had about 300,000 as a big estimate of our native community, they burned all the time very regularly and manipulated the vegetation in California. When colonists arrive in California it was a creation of our native peoples but unfortunately, we find it very easy to recognize archeological things. You know, oh look here's an acorn grinding rock, but European immigrants did not recognize any ecological legacies or what, how the land was created ecologically. They saw forests likes this, [inaudible] called these forests in the Sierra, part of the range of light. You could see for miles between the trees. Light permeated the forest. He very much fell in love with that, but it was definitely a function of native burning. You can see the traces. This is from around the turn of the century. You can see the fire tracks on these ponderosa pine. And so, on regular, low intensity burning, we hear about this from people doing prescribed burning now too. Very similar. If you burn often enough, you don't burn hard, you burn at a fairly low intensity, the big trees remain, the brush, the over regeneration are suppressed and you have more widely spaced trees that guess what, are less likely to go up in a catastrophic wildfire.

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>> In the late 19th century herders, sheep herders, much maligned for setting fires to their grazing areas to keep it open for sheep. Miners, farmers, hunters, native American people, all were burning in California. John [inaudible] looked at this range of light and said fire, axes, vandalism, they are threatening the forests of our country, this beautiful wilderness. Nature also sends down fire and that's bad too. Fire is really hurting our ecosystems. John [inaudible] left us a legacy of blindness to a history, 10,000-year history of management or as a native American gentleman once told me, wilderness is a term invented by the white man and yet it's permeated our ideas about how to take care of landscapes. Yellowstone National Park, John [inaudible] loved Yellow Stone, helped make it estate in the national park. As you can see, this is a painting from 1870. That's rangeland. It's oak, woodland and grassland and wetland. On the floor of Yosemite Valley, part of what made it so spectacular is you could go down into this valley and see all these wonderful mountains, granite cliffs. Now, around the, as we move on into the 20th century you can see that the meadows are starting to be occupied by conifer trees and conifer trees in California will shade out oaks and choke them out. So, we have a change here, a shift to a conifer based valley that now today, the forest service, or not the forest service, the national park system spends a great deal of money trying to bring back some of these oaks, trying to recreate these grasslands, trying to slow down and deal with this conifer invasion. And you can see that it's enough that the trees are starting to die in places in Yosemite Valley. They can't grow when they're so close together. I read an article that said that there's 6 times as many trees per acre in the Sierra today as there were at the time of Lewis and Clark. Now, a preoccupation with getting rid of fire of course we have Smokey the Bear. Smokey's been remarkable effective for the forest service and other land management agencies. I can say for sure that he's gotten more buff in recent years. He's apparently working out. But the range of light has changed to what you could call the range of dark. It's full of dead wood. The trees are too crowded, it's a conflagration waiting to happen and we're having those conflagrations because we have simply allowed our forest to densify and of course a few years ago we lost some 200 million trees in the Sierra. They get. They're too close together. When there's a drought, they can't get enough water, then you have beetles, then you have fire. It's a very bad sort of circling the drain sort of situation with forest management in a lot of California now. And you know, rangelands are not unaffected. This is the area behind the Berkeley campus, around the turn of the century, 1900, Tilden Park. Today it's like this. Really changed. Really flammable, except for the gold course down at the bottom. Here's Berkley Hills. This used to be a dairy. Oops, sorry. Now, the surprise is wrecked. This used to be a dairy. You can see the dairy trail going up into the hills. There used to be a milk company that advertised by saying farms in Berkley and they've made the point that there have been a dairy in Berkley for 100 years but when that sort of thing stopped, people. You can even see in picture some plantations of Monterey pine that have been planted in the park and when all that came to fruition with the reduction and sensation of grazing in Tilden Park, you got a lot of brush. If you go right over those hills to the next park over where they do have grazing, it's an open woodland. It doesn't look like this at all. These shrubs are very susceptible to grazing if you graze them when they're seedlings. Once they're established you've got a problem that's expensive to fix. And of course, in the 90's we had the Berkley Hills fire which killed students and destroyed about 4,000 homes and was a big mess and a harbinger of things to come. Open oak woodlands. I mentioned them. They're really about 6 million hectares of California. They're changing. There's more oaks in them and then we've done long term studies in these oak woodlands. There's more oaks than there ever has been but they're still largely in private hand and still largely grazed and ranchers have a history of maintaining them open so that they're better for livestock grazing. So, those private lands are still looking pretty good in many areas but unfortunately in many areas they are being invaded, where they aren't used for grazing, where they aren't managed for openness.

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>> They're being invaded either by, both by native species, either by shrubs, coyote brush is a big one, not particularly palatable but in the absence of grazing and fire will take over a lot of our rangelands. And interestingly north of where I live in Marin county and Santa Rosa and Sonoma up into the wine country, Douglas fir, which is a native tree, is invading and coming down from the north and everybody loves trees, right. Douglas fir is a valuable timber species, but it grows to heights that then choke out and smother the oaks and the oaks are really the cornerstone of biodiversity on California rangelands. They sequester a lot of carbon, they provide incredible habitat, they provide acorns. They mean very much to us. So, we're losing those to this Douglass fir and to further densification in northern California. What about European and English forests? What about these plantations? Before say, the 13th century, forests were places where people lived and worked just like in California. Peasant families lived in the forests, they farmed in the forests, they grazed in the forests. Sidney [inaudible] and his book Landscape and Memory has a great history about this, and they were used in farm for sustenance by people. So, they were maintained in a much more open structure. The black forests, we actually practiced [inaudible] in the black forests. Forests were burnt, burnt every dozen years or so, converted to crops for a few years and then allowed to grow back into forests and by all accounts, the forest structure was much more open than it is today. Grow wheat, turnips, you name it, including all the way up to Scandinavia, this kind of practice was done, and these are not Mediterranean forests at all, yet still they were managed just like tropical forests have been managed by Sweden for time immemorial. So, today the black forest of course is black and dark like ours but still more intensively managed than ours. The Norman conquest in about 1066 in England peasants were evicted. It's the famous historical story in England from the king's forests. Forests were protected. 1700 I mentioned this earlier, managed for timber ships and military purposes and then around the time of the world wars it seems that forests were often planted by the state as an expression of I guess power and authority and a reflection of the military value history or the military value of wood. [inaudible] planted millions or, I don't actually know, lots of acres of plantations in Spain. Just a lot of land in Europe was planted to forest plantations and once a plantation was planted, once a land becomes forest, it's often confiscated or managed by the state with an idea of protecting the forest from all these uses that peasants, indigenous people and so on were making of them to protect these forests. Ironically, that hasn't work out so well. In Spain, which is a Mediterranean climate, Spain and Portugal had an indigenous management system which involved agro-silvopastoralism cropping and raising pigs in the oak woodlands of Spain. Plants are kept wide apart so there's a good understory because goats and sheep and cattle are all grazed in these woodlands. You can see these pigs are really having fun on the yummy acorns and the pigs are pretty yummy too. Here's another medieval character out in the day. So, but these systems are still there in Spain but they're at danger of being converted for carbon sequestration and for tree planting. They're quite lovely. And they're created, they were created and are created by people. They take brushy woodlands and convert them into these sort of stately open woodlands. They happen to be the most fire-resistant landscape in Spain. These are called the [inaudible] and livestock were being used for 100's of years to help maintain these tall, open forests that are widely spaced.

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>> Here's an area that's been pruned and thinned. A patch of brush for hunting and oops, and an older [inaudible] that hasn't been pruned in this particular year. This management system really created the discontinuous fuel system that really did not carry fire very far, but these were replaced in many places by these pine plantations because they're seen as degraded. It's degraded if it doesn't have trees on it apparently. Scott's pine and other popular species in Europe. Another problem in Europe today besides these pine plantations is just simple land abandonment. A lot of people have left the countryside and are moving to cities and a lot of areas that have been managed. This is similar to California. For a few hundred years with grazing, this is called an ancient wood pasture with the giant trees and the grass. Once abandoned, these monocultural stands of trees come in and invade and create a low biodiversity, high fire danger situation. So, the point I'm trying to make is that this is a problem, the invasion of woody vegetation is an issue all over the world and we don't want to let the idea that this absolutely a climatic good allow us to neglect that this is an unfortunate transformation that may have actually been contributing to a lot of our problems. So, how can we? I have a few ideas about how we might create more climate adapted transformations in some of these rangelands. In Portugal, the governor is telling people to plant cork oak instead of forests. He appears with a shovel and plants an oak on television one day and I highly, really recommend, I tell this to my students too, when you buy a bottle of wine get one with a real cork. Don't mess around with the screw top stuff because the corks are the main source of income for these huge areas of oak woodlands, which in Spain and Portugal are by and large privately owned just like in California. And I have a friend in Spain who's working with the government of a province to, on something called Project Mosaic and the goal is to restore more of the traditional landscape broken up by agriculture, used for grazing, managed trees far apart that are more resistant to fire and can be managed to resist fire. I love the website. The abandonment of agricultural activities has become more intense in mountain areas and as abonnement increases, the combustible material that proliferates without management. The next one is even better. Before the mountains were clean, because they were the appetite of all kinds of livestock and the fires are the result of the gradual disappearance of this important partner of the economy and rural culture. So, right out. Coming out and saying it and promoting it, that livestock grazing can be incredibly useful in preventing fire. Why not? This is from the Yurok reservation in northern California along the [inaudible]. In 1912, a forest surveyor working for the forest service or the BIA, they both took a hand at suppressing fire on the Yurok reservation, said this entire reservation is overrun by fire. Well, now you can't take this picture because there's too many trees in the way. It's a huge, dense forest which is not much use to native people because they relied a lot on understory plants and game, all those things that are more common without a dense, closed canopy in the forest, or important to, are important to native people, acorns from oaks. This is a Yurok couple who, among others, in the tribe are attempting to apply their cultural knowledge to use fire to restore some of the native, more fire-resistant landscapes of the Yurok country. The tribe itself has a prescribed burning program that they're using. Prescribed burning of course can be an important tool in California. One of our problems though with prescribed burning is once you've got dense brush, once you've got dense trees, it becomes very hard to prescribed burning. The time to use it, prescribed burning, and grazing, is now on these millions of acres that have burned in the last few years. They should be managed immediately to regrow in a more fire-resistant landscape. We know grazing can be effective in reducing fire because it removed fine fuels. It has both a long and a short-term effect. Short term would be removing biomass. Long term is suppressing invasion of brush and other species. Fireman, if you talk to them, they'll say you know where we think our stand, when we're looking for a place where we can take our vehicles and land our planes, we're looking for grazed areas because that's where we're relatively safe.

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>> This just illustrates the suppression of coyote brush. There's grazing outside, no grazing inside. Here's one of our field stations during a big fire that happened last year. That's, sorry, it burnt up to here which is where the grazing began. This is the grazed half of this picture. It was where the firefighters were able to make a stand and stop the fire. The city of San Mateo, I think it's the city of San Mateo, in the Santa Clara, in Santa Clara county, public agencies are considering, they lease their land for grazing a lot in California and they're considering calling their grazing leases biomass reduction leases in order to help with that, something like Sara talked about, communicating to the public why grazing is important. Although it's very well known that it's also valuable for biodiversity for reasons, I don't have time to go into right now. Goats. We have 1 million goat projects and companies in California. People like goats. They don't realize what goats are really like. They're cute and they, even though these goat people charge maybe a $1,000 an acre for grazing, the slopes are so steep and the country so rough that it's still cheaper than any other means they can think of, but on grasslands and woodlands, cattle, sheep, do great and are great for reducing biomass out on the rangelands. And they pay for the privilege. Here they are providing this incredible ecosystem service as we talked about in our first talk and they're paying for, paying for that privilege. You know I had a reported call me one day and say you know, I just wanted to talk to you. I talked to this goat company and they told me that goats don't release methane unlike cattle, I hope the animal scientists are enjoying that, and they don't eat nonnative plants. I mean they don't eat native plants, they only eat nonnative plants. And I said, don't print that, don't print either thing. I like goats. I've had them but they, you know, the right tool for the right job. Okay. So, and fortunately the science is starting to catch up with all of this. We've seen articles about grasslands may be more reliable carbon sinks than forests in California because they do not, the carbon stores are underground, they don't burn up and then people are worried about Portugal killer forest. Europe is a perfect landscape. And finally, this article came out recently pointing out that planting trees is actually only a small, the stuff about how we're going to stop global warming with planting trees. The amount that you can sequester with trees is pretty small compared to the amount we produce by burning fossil fuels. There's various things out there that are a distraction from the fundamental problem. It's taking carbon that's been stored in the earth for millions of years and putting it into your air. Both methane and, just a natural process, natural gas. Okay. So, choices. We have so many tools. We have livestock grazing, prescribed fire, agriculture, chemical tools, manual tools. We can mix them, burning and livestock are incredibly effective. You can reduce woodiness of the foliage and maintain it that way with grazing over the long term. Now, native American people burnt within 10 years there'd be more than 1 fire, very often in some areas. We probably won't be doing that with prescribed fire. It's hard. It's expensive. It causes air quality, the air quality board makes it even harder. So, grazing combined with a fire is a great path but also doing something now on these lands that are freshly burned is also really important. They are in the meantime turning back into the kind of brush that enabled the fire, the Camp Fire where the place burnt 13 times but came back to brush every time and became more flammable. I think a lot of people think oh, it burnt, problem solved but actually that's far from the truth. The stuff that grows back, some people think with climate change it'll never return to trees. The stuff that grows back is more flammable than a forest for many, many years. So, I went to a talk by an ecologist who was applying for a job and he was a marine ecologist. Not my expertise. Rangeland is kind of the opposite of marine but in fact I saw some similarities. So, here's a coral reef with a healthy compliment, diverse compliment of herbivores, herbivorous fish. The herbivorous fish facilitate all the diversity in the coral reef. They keep it open. They keep it uncrowded. They keep it diverse and when you take away the herbivores you wind up with this and that's, I mean, I looked at that and I thought oh, that's California. What are we going to do? You know. This is California. And so, in the words of Project Mosaic I think we need to make our livestock into firefighters in California and we need to be very aggressive in this. We need to do more to promote grazing as a strategy for reducing fuels in our state and collaboration, yes, we need collaboration. Fires don't pay attention to property boundaries. It's going to require political and social will to invest in prevention of fires, in landscape manipulation. There are so many people who have so many reasons why we shouldn't manage anything. Somehow, we have to get past that and really develop climate adapted ecosystems that resist fire and won't burn up taking everything else with them. So, thank you.

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>> Lynn, thank you very much for a great talk. Could you expand a little bit about the role of the grazed plant communities in producing and storing soil carbon? You touched on it but strikes me that it's the mollisols that grow under grasslands that are most famous for soil carbon and I think that theme goes right along with your talk but it's a really important part of it because of the long term nature of that soil carbon storage.

>> Well, I have to say that I am not an expert in this area. I assume mollisols tend [inaudible]. I can't figure out where he is. Mollisols [inaudible]. Mollisols are also support, as far as I know, the best plant growth and the highest soil moisture levels and when you have plants growing and roots growing into the soil, you're going to sequester more carbon. So, I do think soils are really important. We need to know more about them. I have students working on that, but I am not really an expert in that field.

>> Okay. Before we move onto questions, but we do want to hear from you. Well, yeah. We need to move on.

>> Maybe she doesn't want to hear from me.

>> I do, and I don't. I do and I don't.

>> We could answer his question and then I.

>> Okay hi.

>> I love questions. So.

>> Hi Lynn.

>> Hi.

>> So, I'm just. In the public land agencies, the federal agencies especially, livestock management goals and fuel management goals are completely separate.

>> Yeah.

>> And I'm wondering if you are seeing any movement towards rectifying those things.

>> Well, there's so many complications. Now, livestock, oh they sequester carbon, how can we use them to? I mean, they emit methane, how can we use them to sequester carbon and there's just a long history of attitudes about livestock grazing somehow degrading the forest which, if you mean maybe fewer seedlings that would be a good thing. I mean, we have to change our whole perception of what kind of forest belongs where. I mean, some, when we interviewed people who were reforesting their property, I mean one of their views was oh, climate change, because we asked them about, do you think you might plant more climate adapted species and plant in a different way. Their overwhelming desire was to return things to just the way it was but when we asked them about climate change, they'd say oh, climate change, how can my little piece of land have anything to do with this global thing, right. That's a big thing and I'm just planting my, my little forest here. So, there needs to be more like that. But I think one other problem is, we've been a little guilty of this ourselves, when you were talking about forest management and grazing goals, and that we talk about oh, grazing can prevent fire and then sometimes it doesn't. And of course, anything is not going to work every time, but we also have never really looked at grazing, I don't feel like, for fire hazard reduction. We haven't studies that enough if at all. So, we have fire models that tells us that a place like that canyon in [inaudible] is going to burn again and again and why not use those fire models to decide where we might put some grazing at a higher intensity than we often do in California. We can do that. I have a friend who does that with trees. They look at well, where can we thin some trees and have the most impact on the biggest area of the forest. We could do that with grazing too. So, I think we need to work with fire models and grazing. Also, we need to change some of our practices. Like, I heard a talk just last year. One of my favorite collaborative organizations, California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, and a rancher got up and said, you know, this year there was so much rain in the winter. It was great. I told my wife we're finally making it. I'm going to save feed so I can come back to it in the fall when I get done in the mountains and I'll have this huge standing feed and that stuff went up like a bomb, just went up like a bomb in the fires that happened in that county. So, we have to rethink a little bit. It's like so many other things. It's a tradeoff or a complexity as people have been saying. I hate complexity, come on. I want to simply eat the grass but anyway there's tradeoffs there. We need to deal with them, and I don't know what to do about that idea that forest management. Foresters, I've worked with foresters, they're around me all the time, and they don't think grazing is good at all and that's a problem.

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>> Okay. Yes. Yeah, go sit down. Thank you. Okay. Apologies for cutting off questions specifically for Lynn but we are getting up to lunch. I'm Sheri Spiegel. I am a range scientist at the Jornada Experimental Range. I want to thank all of you for being here to discuss sustainability transformations on rangelands. To get a conversation started we've asked Jeff Herrick and Kristi Moscow just to reflect a little bit on some of the things they heard, maybe, about these 3 talks and then hopefully we will have the time and we will make the time to discuss transformations as a group. So, Jeff is a soil scientist with the Jornada. He's also the global lead for land, the land potential knowledge system and Kristi is the executive director of the Sustainable Rangelands roundtable and research scientist at University of Wyoming. So, you guys have a couple minutes or more if you need. So, thank you.

>> Great. Thanks a lot. Those are 3 great and very diverse talks. I guess I would suggest that the first 2 made 1 point incredibly clear which is that we need to think differently. Actually all 3 of them I think made that point. We need to think differently, and we need to think differently both in terms of how we think about it and also how we frame our conversations. And Sara said that lifecycle analysis is incredibly complicated and context specific. How many people in here have tried to do a lifecycle analysis? Was it easy? Yeah. It's really tough and yet if we want to be able to a, increase sustainability and b, communicate to consumers the choices that they're making, then we need to do that. One of the challenges of lifecycle analysis is that it relies on averages because we're always trying to put data into it and basically drive something based on averages and yet it's the exceptions where innovation occurs. And so, I guess I'd like to make the argument based on these 3 talks that we need to be all thinking and contributing to lifecycle analysis while at the same time focusing on the exceptions where the innovation is occurring. Thanks to all 3 speakers.

>> I would agree with the points Jeff made and then also here in a little bit on the communication idea, you know, Sara mentioned that 24% of people think they know where beef comes from and I think it's probably even somewhat more entangled than that because so much of the information that's provided is incorrect. Specifically, you know what came to mind for me was the Lancet EAT report which talked about budgeting calories across the population, so everyone gets about 1,200 a day. Converting rangeland to cropland at the same time they were talking about the ecosystem services that rangelands provide. And so, I think making sure that the general public has access to credible information is really important and I think, you know, Sara also mentioned that maybe the beef industry hasn't done the best job of telling their story. I think that's equally true of the rangeland management community. I think especially if you look at the concerted and coordinated effort that foresters are able to make at the government level in promoting the values and benefits of forestry, of trees, of, you know, conserving these landscapes, rangelands come in a distant 2nd in those conversations and debates. And so, I think that's a piece of the puzzle as well. I think it also comes into play within the federal agencies. You know, having the agencies recognize the importance of the rangeland landscapes they manage that it isn't just all about the trees, even if you are the forest service.

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>> They have a significant amount of rangeland to be responsible for as well. And then in talking about ecosystem services valuation and we're doing markets, figuring out how to value, how to find buyers and sellers, how to build those markets is important but then also how do you target that. So, there's the value to the ranchers of payments for goods and services they're providing. There's also how do you make sure if carbon credits are being sold that the credits are giving the most bang for the buck in terms of the land that they're conserving. And so, I think ecosystem service markets for carbon are close to coming online now but I think making sure that that's done in the most productive and valuable way is important. And then in terms of, you know, emerging technologies and looking at smart agriculture or, you know, I'm envisioning an Alexa ranch where you say, you know, open the south gate Alexa and it happens. I think there's larger sustainability questions around that, not only for rural communities but also for ranchers who when you talk to them about why do you ranch, why are you still doing this when it's so difficult and often it's not profit. It's tradition and stewardship and lifestyle and family values and I think integrating those kinds of things with these emerging technologies is really important. And Sara didn't talk very much about the US roundtable and sustainable beef but the way they're coming at sort of raising the level in the pool for everybody is in terms of grazing management, plan management, just making sure that people are being strategic about the decisions that they're making. And then to Lynn's points about the fires. I would just say, you know, there are some wins out there, so BLM is looking at targeted grazing, using livestock to manage fuels and getting more strategic about doing that. The Wildland Fire Leadership Council, which is cabinet secretary level. So, Sunny Perdue is part of it. Susan [inaudible] over at department of interior. They are really looking at ways to make prescribed burning more usable, more accessible. Even down to having EPA differentiate air quality that comes from prescribed burning of fuels versus structural fire. Anyway. I think that's probably plenty to stimulate some discussion. So, give it back to Sheri.

>> Thank you. Thank you very much Kristi. So, I guess just to open up the floor. We were wondering. I was wondering if anyone thinks that we are, we had missed any major strategies for transformation. Is there a burning strategy or perhaps a scale of focus that you feel really needs to be addressed?

>> Thank you, Sheri. I think, you know, a topic that was touched on but probably needs to be addressed more directly and it's been a real sore spot with me is the agricultural programs and policies that work at cross purposes with rangeland conservation. And we have a situation right here, just north of us. The largest grassland biome left in North America is the northern mixed grass prairie and yet, we're losing millions of acres of that currently, very likely well into the near future due to a lot of agricultural programs that probably have an unsustainable basis.

>> And do you see a way forward for shifting those.

>> I don't. I just raised the issue and I'm thinking about renewable fuel standard for example, right, and some of these other activities that place much greater value on the provisioning services provided by croplands rather than the diverse ecosystem services we've been talking about on rangelands. So, however that could be addressed I just think either the society or some group of conservationists interested in rangeland grasslands ought to bring that to the floor.

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>> I agree. I think that, that is, the idea that. I mean, I think whenever you're talking about single purpose management, you're going to have bad consequences on rangeland and that includes single purpose management for carbon sequestration. You have to recognize that there's a lot of values and we need to figure out how to manage for more than just 1. Even in some landscapes, when they plant trees it takes the water right out of the soil and when a lot of rangelands converted in arid areas to agriculture relies on irrigation which is not sustainable. So, that kind of thinking is something we need to avoid.

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>> Oh, I think we need a mic over here.

>> Saw one over here.

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>> Just to comment on, follow on from some of the previous comments. I think a solution that is more holistic and could galvanize a lot of these challenges is the individual community's relationship to the landscape and taking that word scape to another level, food scape, the relationship you have to land. Well, okay. Is it a forest, an anthropogenic term that Huntsinger talked about of a wildland? Well, to native peoples it wasn't wilderness, it's their home, it's their foodscape. I've come here from New Zealand. It's great to be here and hear the diversity of thoughts and practices but one of the things we are challenged with back home at the moment, the dichotomy you mentioned in terms of agriculture versus more extensive rangelands is, okay, how do we bring the urban-rural divide. How do we dispel that urban-rural divide and one thing we're thinking about is the term foodscape or multi-scapes? Managing a landscape in a way that you appreciate as society, it serves multiple purposes rather than silo thinking of just food or carbon sequestration, conserving a native tree. So, I guess to sum up my point is a strategy could be growing the appreciation a people or peoples have to the landscape and going from there because at the end of the day we're nothing without our landscape, socially, physically, economically.

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>> Thank you. Thank you. Well put. And oh yes, yes please.

>> Hopefully this isn't too much of a diversion but across our rangeland landscapes we have drainage ways or watersheds and riparian areas, in Europe they call them catchments, and the idea is keep the water on the land longer with riparian functions and if we do manage our lands so that we have floodplains that are still acting as floodplains and streams that are functioning properly so that they flood off and we can store an awful lot of carbon in those riparian areas, a much higher level there than any other single part of our rangelands.

>> Thank you. So, I guess one common theme I'm hearing is raising awareness for the general, just, just for all of our communities and the general public beyond SRM and I think one, I think all of us coming together consortium of diverse viewpoints at SRM is a huge start but I'm wondering if others see. I guess I see raising awareness as one of the kinds of leverage points to transform our rangeland systems, our social ecological systems towards sustainability and I guess, yeah. I guess I'm wondering if anybody else sees any key kind of leverage points. So, there's like awareness building and if my question could be. Yes, Jeff, thank you.

>> Yeah. I think this is a place where we really need to be thinking about technology and how we engage with technology and how we develop technology. People are increasingly interacting with the landscapes through their phones. They go out onto rangelands, they see something they don't know about, whether it's a cow or a goat or a deer or plants or bare ground and what do they do? They Google it. And so, I think, or they go to an app and increasingly there are apps available that people are using to identify plants and so forth. And so, I think thinking about not only developing our own apps as a number of us are doing, but also thinking about what are the apps that are getting used heavily and what are the sites that are getting hit when people are out on rangelands. And I thought, Sara's Google analysis was just wonderful. I don't think I'm going to use Lady Gaga but, as an example, but that was, you know. That's really where we need to be engaging. And so, yes, technology to help increases the sustainability of our landscapes but equally importantly, using technologies to help people understand what the implications are of our actions and our management and I guess the other thing is just thinking differently as a scientific community about the assumptions we make about different communities. And so, recreationalists for example are not one group and NCBA and TLC are increasingly painting recreationalist as one group because of one corporation which is Patagonia. Ignoring the fact that there are an incredible number and I mountain bike around Buller all the time and I have conversations every single day at every time I close a gate with the other mountain bikers. And the reality is they're really open to understanding the benefits of livestock grazing but we need to engage them in ways that they're willing to accept, and we need to stop the confrontation. So, technology, engagement, conversation. Thanks.

>> Thank you for listening to the Art of Range podcast. You can subscribe to and review the show through iTunes or your favorite podcasting app, so you never miss an episode. Just search for Art of Range. If you have questions or comments for us to address in a future episode, send an email to For articles and links to resources mentioned in the podcast, please see the show notes at Listener feedback is important to the success of our mission, empowering rangeland managers. Please take a moment to fill out a brief survey at This podcast is produced by Connor's Communications in the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. The project is supported by the University of Arizona and funded by the Western Center for Risk Management Education through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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