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Washington State University

Conservation Grazing of Semi-Natural Grasslands West of the Cascades

Photo Credit: Cascadia Prairie Oak Partnership
Supporting the Multifunctionality of Grassland Ecosystems

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.

Inclusive Partnerships Cutting Across Agriculture and Conservation

A variety of research and conservation teams and organizations tackle this work. Partners include Ecostudies Institute, Thurston Lewis and Grays Harbor Conservation Districts, WSU Extension, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, state and federal Departments of Fish and Wildlife, and many others. These efforts and partners include Ecostudies Institute, the Cascadia Prairie Oak Partnership, the South Puget Sound Prairie Landscape Working Group, the Center for Natural Lands Management, and many others.

Current and Recent Research and Education Initiatives
  • Washington Coast Restoration and Resilience Initiative, 2022-2025. Through support of small farmer-rancher operations and a linked community of conservation-minded private landowners, we will improve the plant and animal diversity of the coastal prairies within the Chehalis River watershed with conservation grazing and native plant enhancement. This project will create a sustainable program that benefits ecological communities and local economies by enhancing the market for small ranching businesses using conservation grazing practices on degraded prairie land. Finally, utilizing a network of veteran landowners and small business owners, we will develop a multigenerational legacy of support for veterans in this region.
  • Department of Defense Resiliency and Environmental Protection Integration, 2022-2024.
    • Communications actions: (1) Develop and share information about the JBLM Sentinel Landscape Partnership (SLP), including  a technical resource guide for conservation on rural and working lands that is applicable to the Sentinel Landscape, (2) Develop and share resources available to landowners from partner organizations that support the objectives of the JBLM SLP, (3) Send invitations to educational trainings and community engagement opportunities.
    • Technical Education actions: (1) In-depth understanding of individual landowner/operator eligibility for federal, state and local conservation programs, (2) Assistance in applying for/enrolling in conservation programs, (3) Training on management-based Best Management Practices (ex. conservation grazing, pasture management, etc.), (4) Community-driven focus groups to support the Ag Easement Staircase development process, and (5) Establishment of new Veteran-owned farming businesses within the landscape.
  • Western SARE Research to Grassroots, 2022-2023. This project is aimed at developing a rancher-led grazing association (Facebook page previous, website here: with support from an interdisciplinary, multi-agency team focused on communicating and sharing principles, practices and programs associated with the ecological, economic and social sustainability of ranching in western Washington. Outreach events will prioritize topics identified by the producer community, with information shared between producers and from the conservation, regulatory, agricultural professional and technical support communities. These information sharing events (workshops, webinars, on-farm demonstrations) will directly address the WSARE goal of promoting good stewardship of the nation’s natural resources. Sharing conservation priorities and incentive programs aimed at enhancing prairie habitat on working lands will engage a new generation of farmers and ranchers with innovative tools that can both advance conservation of rare species and enhance the productivity of their operations.
  • Western SARE 2018-2021. 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.
Western SARE 2018021 Project summary

Prairie Grazing Trials Partner Summary_FINAL

Project Summary and Annual Reports

Economic Impact Analysis and Enterprise Budgets

Related Conservation Grazing Reports and Resources

Symposium Session, Society for Range Management Presentations. February 18th, 2021

  • 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

For questions on this page, please contact Stephen Bramwell (