Ranchers, land tenure, and grassroots governance: maintaining pastoralist use of rangelands in the United States in three different settings
The forms of grassroots governance that have emerged in three different land tenure settings, Arizona, California, and Texas are examined in terms of how they help ranchers maintain access to rangeland resources within each setting. Ranchers and pastoralists need a web of social and political relations to secure their ability to benefit from rangelands, regardless of whether they own, rent, or are permitted to use the land by a government agency. In the Malpai Borderlands, where much of the rangeland is leased from a few public agencies, the need to use prescribed burning, maintain access to public lands, and stave off land fragmentation and development has led to the emergence of a grassroots rancher organization with a system of conservation easements whose permanence is linked to stability of public leases, and a burn and land conservation plan that benefits both ranchers and fire agencies. In California, where a significant proportion of rangeland is private but diverse types of public and reserved land are important, the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition communicates the benefits of grazing to agency managers, and has produced a strategic plan for maintaining rangelands and ranching, in an effort to help keep the growing proportion of public and reserved rangeland available for grazing. In Texas, where the vast majority of rangeland is privately owned, wildlife management associations help ranchers to manage and market game species for hunting in an increasingly fragmented landscape. These wildlife associations help increase benefits to ranchers from game species, a common pool
resource, while maintaining habitat on a landscape scale. All of these groups rely on creating connections among ranchers and regulatory or management agencies, and on sharing knowledge, labor, and resources. Each supports research and policy that benefits pastoralism in ways that an individual rancher cannot. All of them are involved in transboundary management, whether it is fire, wildlife, or maintaining a grazing calendar of several different ownerships. Finally, each group maintains that they are benefiting rangelands, including supporting biodiversity.