What’s in it for ranchers?
In California, the most extensive opportunities to restore degraded detention storage functions are our nonnative annual rangelands, including hardwood rangeland understories.
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What’s in implementation of Rainfall to Groundwater for ranchers?
Payment for ecohydrological services [aka “social-ecological services” per Lynn Huntsinger and J. L. Oviedo (2014)],, for starters.
That is, water users should pay for watershed/ catchment restoration, then provide ongoing economic incentives for maintaining the restored lands. This would offer another revenue stream supporting rangeland economies and conservation.
Specifics can/ should be worked out within the context of, in California, the Groundwater Sustainability Plans to be developed by Groundwater Sustainability Agencies and/or local water agencies.
Proposed restoration would necessarily occur on lands enrolled voluntarily, so financial incentives must be balanced with the local economic value of water to encourage rangeland enrollment.
Strategic ongoing monitoring would substantiate the efficacy of incentives.
The most sustainable restoration efforts will aim for native vegetation types best suited for specific sites and thus capable of sustaining themselves over time.
With the nonnative annual grasses gone, what would happen to livestock ranching?
How about adapt to/ evolve with the changes?
Shift the goalpost for what constitutes optimal rangeland conditions. With additional income streams coming from payment for ecohydrological services, ranchers could have more latitude for experimentation.
For example, most cattle raised in California are large animals descended from English breeds, genetically predisposed to moist climates with plenty of green grass. Inevitable drought can take a toll on an industry so dependent on optimal weather patterns.
But intriguing North American heritage cattle lineages adapted to browsing brush and cactus, as well as grazing grass, have found a following in New Mexico. See Criollo Cattle and Livestock Appellations For California?
Exploration of cattle lines better adapted to California’s semi-arid rangeland climates, able to browse, as well as graze, offers promise in this watershed/ catchment restoration context.
Same would be true for other livestock.
Game species could find a resurgence in the market, as they already have among those practicing “Paleo” diets.
Native ecosystems could flourish, in turn providing new ecological economic opportunities. We can open our minds to new possibilities.
Huntsinger, L. and J. L. Oviedo. 2014. Ecosystem services are social-ecological services in a traditional pastoral system: the case of California’s Mediterranean rangelands. Ecology and Society 19:8 doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06143-190108