We seek to provide insight into ecological and management issues that are pertinent for landowners and land managers. In particular, the lab has ongoing work on projects that seek to better understand wildlife populations found on rangelands, the impacts of feral pigs and livestock on riparian areas, and theoretical approaches to understanding change on rangelands. Additional work includes determining approaches to mapping rangeland plant communities on a larger scale through a rapid sampling methodology.
Private ranches, whether they are owned by multi-generational ranching families, new owners, or NGOs are a key player in habitat conservation in California. Private rangelands oftentimes contain unique kinds of habitat that are not well represented in protected areas of the state. Providing insights into the economic approaches and mechanisms that can support sustainable use will help to maintain habitat across the state. The lab seeks to evaluate this issue by building on past research and extension efforts about recreational hunting as a sustainable income source that can help to reduce fluctuations in income that may necessitate fragmentation of a ranch (Macaulay 2016). Additional research seeks to better understand programs seeking to incentivize habitat conservation in return for more liberal but sustainable hunting opportunities. Other topics include addressing issues surrounding business practices, inheritance, and lease agreements.
Ownership & Landscape Scale Changes Impacting Rangelands
One of our primary conservation challenges is the loss of habitat and the resulting impact on ecosystems and biodiversity. The fragmentation of privately owned properties into smaller parcels coupled with land use change to residential development or intensive agriculture are leading causes of not only of habitat loss and wildlife declines, but also a loss of livestock production capacity.
To make prudent land use decisions and to conserve natural resources, UC Cooperative Extension Advisors, local governments, state government, and natural resource and environmental NGOs need to have access to information on current land ownership by land use as well as land use changes over time. We have approached this issue by working with UC Agriculture & Natural Resources (ANR) to develop the CalLands Portal to provide easily accessible statewide data. Other projects include understanding irrigated pasture across the state (Shapero et al 2017) and analyzing California land ownership and land use (Macaulay & Butsic, 2017).