Cancelled: Rural West 2020

The Future of Ranching in the West
Thu March 19th 2020, 1:30pm
Genoa Lakes Golf Club
1 Genoa Lakes Drive
Genoa, Nevada 89411

The Rural West Conference is an annual, interdisciplinary gathering that brings together academics, practitioners and policymakers to share knowledge and ideas about the rural West. Our hope for the multi-day workshop is that it catalyzes scholarship about and solutions to this region’s pressing problems. Each spring, the Lane Center travels to a different location in the West, growing the network of individuals and organizations invested in identifying solutions to challenges of rural policy, health and environment.

The 8th Annual Eccles Family Rural West Conference is planned for March 19 in Nevada's Carson Valley. We expect the gathering to be an engaging and interdisciplinary dialogue on the critical issues facing rural communities in the American West. Under the banner of The Future of Ranching in the West, this year’s conference will focus on a variety of topics, including the shifting ownership of ranches and rural gentrification; the environmental impacts and ecological benefits of ranching; and other agenda items. During the course of the conference in the Carson Valley, panelists and speakers will address the myriad meanings and implications of these topics.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Mar 19
1:30 - 1:45 pm

Welcome and Introductions

David M. Kennedy
The Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University


Mar 19
1:45 - 3:15 pm

Fire, Fire: Rangeland in Nevada

With so much focus on forest fires, few outside the rural West have paid any attention to the most quickly burning type of land in the country: rangeland. The “sagebrush sea,” as it’s called, stretches from Wyoming to California and is quickly going up in smoke. About 120 million acres of land have burned and over 350 animal species have been displaced. There are many state and regionalized coordination efforts focused on prevention and protection issues, but not enough is being done. Rangeland fires account for 56 percent of burned land in the United States, but received less than 20% of funding for restoration and relief. This panel will discuss research and new science on preventing these fires by managing ongoing threats such as cheatgrass. It will also analyze the partnerships and funding needed to tackle one of the American West’s largest threats.

Karen Kufta
Bureau of Land Management

Tamzen Stringham
Department of Agriculture, Veterinary & Rangeland Sciences, University of Nevada

Pat Shea
The Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University

Mar 19
3:15 - 3:30 pm


Mar 19
3:30 - 5 pm

Wild Horses: An Assessment of Their Future on the Rangeland

The BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program is complicated and contentious. Although wild horses and burros are majestic and quintessential creatures to the great American West, their populations continue to grow and so their numbers outsize the ecosystem carrying capacities in many multi-use Herd Management Areas, threatening other wildlife populations and embroiling interest groups around the country in heated debate. Despite the conflict and polarization on Capitol Hill, previously divergent parties from Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, California, Idaho, and Colorado, worked on a draft proposal to understand how already-available technologies could be utilized towards a non-lethal, sustainable program. These parties maintain that a $50 million dollar increase to the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program would allow the scaling up of fertility control alongside gather-removals; better adoption partnerships; and an initial increase in long-term pasturing. Some animal rights groups have not acquiesced and are raising continued opposition. The final appropriations language signed in 2019 allocated an additional $20 million dollars to the program to pursue a strategy similar to the draft proposal given by these groups. This panel will explore the impacts of passing a budget as proposed, a reduced budget, or no budget at all. It will also make assessments of the impact of horses on endangered species, animal starvation, rangeland quality, agriculture and hunting communities, and interest group relationships.

Dan Adams
Langdon Group

Celeste Carlisle
Return to Freedom

Devere Dressler
California Rangeland Trust

Alan Shepherd
Bureau of Land Management

Konner Robison
Community Foundation of Western Nevada

Mar 19
5 - 7:15 pm

Dinner and Framing Remarks

Wishful Thinking: Past Lessons and Future Pathways for Rangeland Conservation

Rangelands are the most extensive type of land on Earth, but also the least protected and most threatened. This talk begins by asking why the general public tends to misunderstand, underappreciate, or simply overlook rangelands. I then identify several lessons from the past 150 years of rangeland science, management and administration, before turning to the challenges of the present and foreseeable future. I suggest that the variability and heterogeneity of rangelands demand highly flexible, context-specific, and collaborative conservation strategies. I also caution that at the present time (as in the past), the larger political economy of land use predisposes many people to project unrealistic expectations onto rangelands, often to the detriment of land and people alike.

Nathan Sayre
Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley

Friday, March 20, 2020

Mar 20
6 - 9 am


Location: Marriott Courtyard, Carson City

Friday session attendees can enjoy breakfast at the Marriott Courtyard in Carson City. Breakfast will be served in the hotel's Tahoe Room.

Mar 20
8:30 - 8:45 am


Location: River Fork Ranch, The Nature Conservancy, Minden, NV

Art and Joanne Hall
The Nature Conservancy

Bruce E. Cain
The Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University

Mar 20
8:45 - 9:45 am

Why Graze Our Rangelands? Conservation Grazing and Novel Approaches

Location: Whit Hall Interpretive Center

This panel will investigate the role that managed grazing plays on rangelands, exploring both the negative consequences of poorly managed grazing and the positive roles that cattle grazing can play in biodiversity, preventing land use change and conversion, and sequestering carbon. The panel will also explore how innovative approaches to ranching can deliver important outcomes in a changing American West. Examples include intensive, intentional herding (in-herding), and prescriptive grazing to reduce fire risk. The panel will interrogate both the opportunities and limitations associated with novel approaches, and discuss how to scale up.

Lars Anderson
American Prairie Reserve

Kevin Badik
The Nature Conservancy, Nevada

Preston Wright
Marys River Ranch

Nic Buckley Biggs
Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, Stanford University

Mar 20
10:15 - 10:30 am


Mar 20
10:30 am - 12 pm

The Future of Cattle Ranching in the American West

Location: Whit Hall Interpretive Center

Notwithstanding their important role in providing critical ecosystem services throughout the region, the American West’s rangelands face a growing threat of conversion to high-intensity agriculture and development, active invasion by non-native vegetation, and the accelerating and uncertain impacts of a changing climate. What are the biggest threats to cattle ranching in the West today, and what can be done to address them? This panel will explore the influence of government programs, population trends, shifting markets and consumer demand, and generational change on ranching, as well as potential solutions involving government agencies, conservation groups, and the private sector.

Kathleen Epstein
Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University

Jason Karl
College of Natural Resources, University of Idaho

JB Lekumberry
Ranch No. 1

Briana Swette
Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, Stanford University

Mar 20
12 - 1 pm


Mar 20
1 - 1:30 pm

Grazing for Good: Working with Nature for Conservation and Community Resilience

There is an untapped potential for the use of livestock to both sustain and restore protected and working lands across the west. Targeted grazing that works with nature can benefit natural and human communities who depend on the land and ecosystem services.  This session will focus on how progressive grazing techniques have the potential to recover imperiled species, increase biodiversity, support native habitats and build economic and community resilience across grazing lands. Two organizations from CA's Central Coast, the Santa Lucia Conservancy and TomKat Ranch, will present their lessons learned from, and research results about, the role of grazing for conservation and social change in the Central Coast. Conservation grazing can provide landscape level solutions to the ways we work together and lead to resilient rangelands in the West.

Wendy Millet
TomKat Ranch

Christy Wyckoff
Santa Lucia Conservancy

Mar 20
1:30 - 3 pm

Breakout Groups

Participants will be preassigned a breakout session group. During the sessions stakeholders will brainstorm solutions and possibilities to advance the future of ranching in the American West.

Working Across Boundaries for Better Rangeland Management

The most pressing resource issues in the American West (water, invasive species, wildlife, climate change) all require coordination across boundaries, for which the patchwork of private, state, tribal and federal lands in the West presents unique challenges. This panel will explore approaches to working across boundaries for better rangeland management, touching on topics such as landscape-scale planning, collaboration across managing agencies, and the role of private landowners.

  • Facilitated by Bruce Cain, David Kennedy. Staffed by Kylie Gordon

Integrating Regenerative Agriculture Concepts into Federal Programs

Public interest in leveraging managed grazing as a tool for building soil health, sequestering carbon, supporting biodiversity, and managing invasive plants and fuels is growing. This group will focus on the opportunity to integrate regenerative agriculture concepts into state and federal agriculture programs (including California’s Healthy Soils Initiative, federal Farm Bill conservation programs, and BLM outcomes-based grazing policies). What can we learn from recent advances in scientific understanding of the outcomes of regenerative agriculture to inform smart policies for agricultural landscapes? This breakout group will discuss targeted and outcomes-based grazing studies, the use of grazing as a fuel break, and the varying ecological outcomes for which rangelands can be better managed through policy.

  • Facilitated by Nic Buckley Biggs, Briana Swette. Staffed by Surabhi Balachander
Mar 20
3:15 - 4:45 pm

Breakout Reports

Mar 20
4:45 - 5 pm

Closing Remarks