Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for Rangeland Managers

This literature review project is currently in progress with an expected completion date in 2019 with accompanying workshops. The project focuses primarily on the Upper Snake River Watershed of Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon. However, the literature review of relevant rangeland management and water resource strategies includes practices outside of the watershed and, where appropriate, includes the Great Basin and the broader Pacific Northwest region. While not comprehensive, this literature review summarizes some of the most salient current research and actions on managing rangeland systems in a changing climate.

Check back for the completed report and workshop details.

Summary: Rangelands are complex, intricate, interconnected, and dynamic socio-ecological systems comprised of humans, livestock, and natural wildlife. They are an integral part of the region’s economy and provide valuable income to both tribal and non-tribal ranchers and communities.

The climate of the Upper Snake River Watershed, and the Great Basin as a whole, is changing. While variable across the region, for the Upper Snake River Watershed, projections indicate that there will be a significant long-term decrease in snowpack, an increase in the variability of precipitation events, and an increase in temperatures across all seasons. These changes are altering rangelands and challenging ranching operations across the region. This paper provides a literature review of relevant rangeland management and water resource strategies that ranchers and rangeland managers are using to respond to the changing climate conditions. While not comprehensive, this review summarizes some of the most salient current research and actions on managing rangeland systems in a changing climate. The summary is organized around three main themes:

  • Grazing – By diversifying the variety, age, species, genetic source, and breed of livestock, rangeland managers can invest in cattle that have an increased tolerance to drought, heat, and parasites in order to improve the resilience of their rangeland operation. Key actions include: varying stock, constructing exclosures, and using rotation grazing.
  • Rangeland – Natural plant diversity across rangelands minimize the risk of catastrophic events (wildfire, disease, and pests) and improve consistency of livestock production. Key actions include improving landscape connectivity, integrating rangeland and cropland, and removing invasive species while enhancing planting of native grasses and forbs.
  • Water Resources – Healthy ecosystems support many essential services including: enhancing biodiversity, enhancing healthy soil and water quality, encouraging pollinator habitat, controlling erosion, providing essential water services for rangeland production, sequestering carbon, and reducing the susceptibility to climate change. Key actions include: creation of beaver dam analogues, expanding water storage, and supplemental watering.