Conflict Resolution and Rangeland Policy

Over the past several decades the public has become increasingly concerned about the uses and management of rangelands. People value rangelands as open space, a source of clean water and wildlife habitat, as well as for the forage, timber, and mining resources extracted from them. They frequent rangelands to camp, hike, hunt, and drive off-road vehicles. They may also wish to view rangeland plant communities and rare wildlife species in an environment that remains undisturbed by these other uses. Unfortunately, the amount of rangelands is decreasing as they are converted to residential, commercial, and industrial use.

This increasing demand for finite rangeland resources has led to conflict over the appropriate uses and management strategies for these lands. The complex policy issues surrounding rangelands are further complicated by personal emotions tied to the differing belief systems of the various stakeholders involved. In many instances citizens have disagreed bitterly over the perceived condition of these lands, the impacts of various uses on them, and the ways they should be managed.

The purpose of this section of the rangelands site is to provide a constructive and non-threatening venue for the public to explore the key controversial issues surrounding the use and management of rangelands. By aiding citizens to clarify issues, to analyze management alternatives and their consequences, to stay abreast of legislation and legal decisions regarding the issues, and to discover new techniques of conflict resolution, we hope to encourage an informed public that may more effectively engage in policy debate and work toward resolving conflicts over rangeland resources.

Learn about topics related to conflict resolution and policy issues:


    Threatened and Endangered Species Laws

    • Endangered Species Act of 1973: Full text of the act, including Endangered Species Related Laws, Regulations, Policies & Notices.
    • Pathfinder to Information on The Endangered Species Act of 1973: Contains an overview, links to the full text of the Act and several other categories of information on it. Also includes links to information on Maryland resources on the Act. From the LLRX.
    • Endangered Species Related Laws, Regulations, Policies and Notices: Learn more about internal guidance and national policies that FWS has issued to promote efficiency and nationwide consistency in implementing the ESA to protect and recover listed species of plants and animals native to the United States and its territories. Includes information for private landowners and tribes. From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Division of Endangered Species.

    Species of Concern by State

    • Arizona Threatened & Endangered Species: Listings by county for the state of Arizona. From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.
    • California Threatened and Endangered Species: Lists by species within groupings like amphibians, birds, etc. From the California Department of Fish and Game.
    • Colorado Species Concern: Colorado Division of Wildlife: Threatened and Endangered Species.
    • Endangered Species: A participant in the Environmental Education and Training Partnership (EETAP) of the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE).
    • Endangered Species Program: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has done a better job than we could do in providing information about the Act, including access to the full text of the Act, information about species, other laws and policies, and what the FWS does regarding the Act.
    • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Provides taxonomic, conservation status and distribution information on taxa that have been evaluated using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. This system is designed to determine the relative risk of extinction, and the main purpose of the IUCN Red List is to catalogue and highlight those taxa that are facing a higher risk of global extinction (i.e. those listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable).
    • Managing Rangeland: Endangered Species Issues: From the Idaho State One Plan Project. This is a section on rangeland management and endangered species.
    • Montana Threatened and Endangered Species: Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission.
    • New Mexico Threatened and Endangered Species: 1998 Biennial Review and Recommendations from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
    • North Dakota's Endangered and Threatened Species: Quick guide designed to list and provide information about the federally listed threatened and endangered species found in North Dakota. From the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center.
    • Oklahoma's Endangered and Threatened Species and Species of Special Concern: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
    • Oregon List of Threatened and Endangered Fish and Wildlife Species: A simple list giving common name, scientific name, and whether threatened or endangered. From the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
    • Plant Conservation Alliance: A consortium of ten federal government Member agencies and over 145 non-federal Cooperators representing various disciplines within the conservation field: biologists, botanists, habitat preservationists, horticulturists, resources management consultants, soil scientists, special interest clubs, non-profit organizations, concerned citizens, nature lovers, and gardeners. PCA Members and Cooperators work collectively to solve the problems of native plant extinction and native habitat restoration, ensuring the preservation of our ecosystem.
    • USGS National GAP Analysis Program:Gap Analysis is a scientific means for assessing to what extent native animal and plant species are being protected. The goal of Gap Analysis is to keep common species common by identifying those species and plant communities that are not adequately represented in existing conservation lands. Gap Analysis came out of the realization that a species-by-species approach to conservation is not effective because it does not address the continual loss and fragmentation of natural landscapes. Only by protecting regions already rich in habitat, can we adequately protect the animal species that inhabit them.
    • Washington Threatened and Endangered Species: Lists endangered, threatened, designated, candidate, proposed, and 'of concern' species, with most linked to a page with a brief description and pictures. From the Washington Department of Transportation.

    Wildlife and Livestock Interaction 

    • Informing the Elk Debate : The current elk conflict is highly visible and hotly debated in part because of a general lack of information on resource status that parties on all sides believe. This site works to provide that information. From the State of Arizona, US Forest Service, and University of Arizona.
    • The Influence of Grazing Systems and Grazing Intensity on Nongame Birds in North Dakota Grasslands: A two year study to determine the effects of four levels of grazing intensity on nongame birds. Results are issued as two separate reports: 2002 and 2001. From the NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center.
    • USGS National Wildlife Health Center: One of eighteen science and technology centers in the Biological Resources Discipline (BRD) of the U.S. Geological Survey.
    • USU wolf report provokes growls: An article in Deseret News about a new report from Utah State University titled "Wolves in Utah: An Analysis of Potential Impacts and Recommendations for Management." which debunks much of the criticism against wolf reintroductions and says that Utah could, in theory, support up to 700 wolves, but more realistically that number would be about 200, most scattered through potential wolf habitat in the Bear River Range, the Uinta Mountains and the Book Cliffs.
    • Wolves in Utah: An Analysis of Potential Impacts and Recommendations for Management: Reviews the potential of wolves in Utah and makes predictions regarding the social and economic impacts of wolf recolonization on the livestock industry, on hunter success, and on wildlife managers, and then makes recommendations on possible ways to mitigate these impacts. From the College of Natural Resources, Utah State University.
    • Grazing management to mitigate predation on livestock in Yellowstone: A white paper exploring consilience in using herding techniques to manage livestock for range health and to mitigate predator losses.

    Conflict Resolution

    In response to conflict, organizations, initiatives, and others have pursued alternative methods besides litigation for resolving natural resource-based conflicts, and conflicts over rangelands in particular. The Udall Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution uses Environmental Conflict Resolution (ERC), described as “problem-solving discussions among diverse parties, facilitated or aided by a neutral third party and aimed at finding workable solutions to environmental problems or issues.” ERC uses a “problem-solving” approach that seeks to “expand the pie” by searching for mutually beneficial solutions among stakeholders, rather than an all-or-nothing approach for one side. ERC can involve more than two parties – for example, ERC processes can involve, ranchers, homeowners, the Bureau of Land Management, and recreationalists. A neutral third party can help design processes that allow for more productive discussions among stakeholders and allow for the exploration of mutually beneficial solutions. Other organizations, such as the Malpai Borderlands Group, and the Quivira Coalition engage diverse partners to work collaboratively to protect habitat for wildlife species, landscape health, and sustainable ranching and farming. While there is much potential for conflict on rangelands, there are groups that are working towards viable and productive conflict resolution alternatives to litigation.

    Learn more about conflict resolution from The Udall Institude for Environmental Conflict Resolution


    Conservation Easements

    Conservation easements are legal agreements between a landowner and a qualified entity, such a land trust, government, or municipality. A conservation easement is a tool used to conserve private land for agricultural purposes or open space in perpetuity. The need for conservation easements arose out of desire to retain agricultural lands and open space, despite the fact that land sold for development can have a much higher value. The basic model is that a farm or ranch retains ownership of the land, but gives up development rights. When/if the property is sold or changes ownership, the conservation easement stays with the property. In return for putting lands under conservation easement, a property owner receives grant funding, tax deductions and/or tax credits. Given that around 50% of rangelands are privately owned, and increasing development pressure, conservation easements are one tool that ranchers and farmers can use to receive an economic benefit for conserving open space and agricultural lands in perpetuity.