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 Lab, Thurston 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.
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.
A summary of the project can be downloaded here: Prairie Grazing Project Summary.