Drought imposes physical, social, and economic impacts on the ranching system in the Rocky Mountains, and ranchers interviewed for this project exhibit a range of strategies for buffering against and coping with these impacts, and for adapting to dry conditions. Ranchers’ operations are comprised of varying quantities of private, privately leased, state, and federal ground – and with each of these forms of tenure come different levels of oversight on management during drought. However, for the ranchers interviewed, the complex land tenure system appears to support their drought coping and buffering strategies. It proves limiting, though, in terms of long-term adaptation to drought and/or general aridity, particularly due to range improvement policies and tenure insecurity. In addition to these system-level implications of the land tenure system, certain elements of an individual’s land holdings – including length, spatial distribution, size, composition, and perceived and real security – play an important role during drought and help explain the unequal impacts ranchers experience. This information has been compiled into a master’s thesis completed in 2011 and will be distilled into a WWA white paper.
(K. Gangwer Master’s Thesis)