The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Rethinking rancher decision-making: a grounded theory of ranching approaches to drought and succession management

Hailey Wilmer A B and María E. Fernández-Giménez A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Campus Mail 1472, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1472, USA.

B Corresponding author. Email: hailey.wilmer@colostate.edu

The Rangeland Journal 37(5) 517-528 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ15017
Submitted: 17 February 2015  Accepted: 12 October 2015   Published: 30 October 2015

Abstract

In this study, we examine the subjective decision-making experiences of cattle ranchers in the western United States. Using a constructivist grounded-theory framework, we analyse semi-structured interviews with 38 ranchers (in three states) whose operations rely upon native rangeland forage. We compare ranchers’ drought management and succession planning processes across interviews. We find that ranchers construct decision-making processes through non-linear and complex consideration of multiple ranch dynamics, through engagement with multiple ways of knowing and across different timescales. We describe four patterns in drought management decision-making processes that can inform needs-based outreach to help spread drought risk across space, time, asset class, households, the market and epistemic frameworks. Ranchers’ succession planning processes are regulated by economic and social uncertainties. However, ranching communities emphasise technical and cultural knowledge transfer and are comprised of producers who took diverse routes to ranching. The study suggests that future programs, outreach, partnerships and research involving ranchers in the western United States are likely to achieve greater success when designed with consideration for the diverse ways of knowing and complex decision-making experiences of ranchers.

Additional keywords: qualitative analysis, rangelands, rangeland management, typology.


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