Grazing Management Must Respond To An Ever-changing, Complex Landscape System

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The special issue of Rangelands presents articles exploring strategic management of ever-changing environments. Researchers should seek to developing creative approaches to grazing management that allow flexibility over time.

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We are 'managing as landscapes continually create' and must give up our illusions of control.

Rangelands - Grazing management that extends the vitality of rangelands and ensures the best food sources for livestock is not a new concept. However, recognizing that they are not “rules of thumb” that can be applied everywhere is new. Ecosystems are complex and continually changing, and managers must apply grazing principles that respond to what is occurring on the land.

A special issue of the journal Rangelands explores strategic grazing management for complex systems, an issue first discussed in a 2008 symposium and further addressed in presentations at a 2012 symposium, both in Colorado. This issue brings together ideas emerging from these meetings and attempts to resolve questions using a combination of scientific theory and case studies.

As landscapes transform, strategic management must change alongside them. As the authors of the issue’s lead article point out, organisms are not so much adapting to change, but actively participating in creating new environments—even if it is not always to the advantage of a particular organism. We are “managing as landscapes continually create” and must give up our illusions of control.

Bringing together two points of view can assist in the process of developing lasting principles that allow flexibility over time. Managers should recognize the “reductionist” thinking of researchers for its contributions—allowing us to understand processes and develop principles. Conversely, researchers should strive to develop new approaches that are creative and mutually supportive.

Another aspect of grazing management addressed in this special issue is stocking rates. One article recommends that stocking rates be determined independent of a ranch’s fixed costs, suggesting a formula of variable costs and the value of production. Another article focuses on stocking rates and rainfall, offering examples from Texas of rate adjustments to accommodate very dry and very wet years.

Additional articles describe necessary plant recovery periods, including seasonal variations, and understanding animal behavior and interactions with the diversity of resources. Philosophies and practices of spatial distribution on the landscape and increased stocking densities are also presented.

Full text of “Complex Creative Systems: Principles, Processes, and Practices of Transformation,” and other articles in Rangelands, Vol. 35, No. 5, October 2013, are available.


About Rangelands
Rangelands is a full-color publication of the Society for Range Management published six times per year. Each issue of Rangelands features scientific articles, book reviews, and society news. Additionally, readers may find youth, technology, and policy departments. The journal provides a forum for readers to get scientifically correct information in a user friendly, non-technical format. Rangelands is intended for a wide-range of individuals including educators, students, rangeland owners and managers, researchers, and policy leaders. The journal is available online at To learn more about the society, please visit

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Kristen Vermeire
Allen Press, Inc.
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