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COVID-19 Advisory: WSU Extension is working to keep our communities safe. All Extension programming is being provided virtually, postponed, or canceled. Effective March 16, 2020, WSU Extension county offices and WSU Research & Extension Centers will be closed to the public. We are available via email, phone, and webconference.

South Sound Prairie Grazing Project

Program Contact: Stephen Bramwell
(360) 867-2161 • bramwell@wsu.edu
Photo Credit: Cascadia Prairie Oak Partnership

(note: annual reports below)

A Balancing Act

Prairie ecosystems of south Puget Sound are a home for rare species, a beautiful landscape of unusual land forms, and a productive grazing resource for many farm and ranch families. Balancing the needs of private farm businesses and rare species conservation is a challenge for us in this region, but it is a challenge that communities face worldwide: balancing the need for food and livelihoods with the need for species protection and the maintenance of ecosystem functions.

A Legacy of Effort

A regional research team was recently formed and funded to help tackle this work, building on efforts of many other regional partners at Conservation Districts, Natural Resource Conservation Service, state and federal Departments of Fish and Wildlife, and many others. These efforts and partners include the Cascadia Prairie Oak Partnership, the South Puget Sound Prairie Landscape Working Group, the Center for Natural Lands Management, and many others (please contact us to let us know if we have left off your important work!).

A New Research Initiative

In spring 2018, a regional research collaborative received a Western region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension (SARE) Grant. The project will run for three years, and study the potential for rare species conservation on grazed prairie in south Puget Sound. The project is a collaboration between the WSU Thurston County Extension Agriculture Program, the Center for Natural Lands Management, the WSU Vancouver Conservation Biology LabThurston County Community Planning (formerly Long Range Planning),  several ranches in Puget Sound, including Colvin Ranch, Fisher Ranch, Riverbend Ranch, and Mallonee Farms. The team is also working with the University of Idaho (UI) Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology,  UI Extension Boundary County, and WSU Division of Governmental Studies and Services.

Project summary

See below for full annual project reports, and here for a figure-heavy synopsis of research findings over 3 years: Prairie Grazing Trials Partner Summary_FINAL

The objectives of the project are to:

1. Develop a regional network of on-farm experimental demonstration sites to evaluate effects of Conservation Grazing Practices on prairie habitat.

2. Quantify financial benefits and costs associated with conservation grazing practices in order to provide practical financial information to farmers, the conservation community, and county planners, and to develop budgets and a benefit-cost comparisons that could inform regional efforts to protect critical species on grazed land, including Thurston County’s Habitat Conservation Plan.

3. Engage private landowners through survey work to incentivize landowners to participate in conservation.

4. Present opportunities for technical assistance related to habitat management and discuss economic and landowner incentive opportunities with agricultural producers, regulatory agencies and conservation land managers through a workshop series, field tours of farm demonstration sites and native prairie preserve sites, Extension technical bulletins, a project webpage (you are here!!), and publications in and presentations.

Project Summary and Annual Reports
2021 Society for Range Management Presentations. February 18th, 2021

Symposium Session Title: Grazing for Conservation: Ecological Opportunity for Ranchers at the Urban-Rural Frontier

  • Grazing for Conservation at Tracking Y Ranch (Jake Yancey): Yancey_Society Range Management 2021
  • 15 years of grazing for shrub-steppe conservation and risk reduction on a mixed-ownership landscape (Tip Hudson, WSU Extension): WildHorseCRM SRM2021
  • Maintaining Rangeland Productivity while Protecting Rare Native Prairies in Western WA, Part 1 or 2 (Stephen Bramwell, WSU Extension): SRM Presentation_shortened
  • Maintaining rangeland productivity while protecting rare native prairies in western WA, Part 2 of 2 (Sarah Hamman, Ecostudies Institute): Society for Range Mgmt_Hamman
  • Economics of Grazed and Ungrazed Prairie Lands (Kate Painter, University of Idaho): Painter_economics
Conservation on Working Lands Survey

Please visit this site for information on the working lands survey: https://extension.wsu.edu/thurston/conservation-on-working-lands-survey/.