John A. Tanaka
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Why Think About Economics When Restoring the Sagebrush Steppe?
John A. Tanaka, Agricultural and Resource Economics, Oregon State University, Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center – Union Station, Union, Oregon.
Economics is one tool that can be used in making decisions about restoration activities whether on public or private lands. Economic models can help identify the impacts of the restoration activity on different entities. We have built multi-period linear programming models to assess the effect of different projects on typical ranch operations in the Great Basin. The models seek to balance cattle herd size with available forage resources within economic returns and costs. We have used random cattle prices within a cattle price cycle to simulate risk. Other sources of risk (e.g., precipitation and fire) are being investigated along with the price risk. While the models are for private ranches, they include the capability to assess some public impacts. Models have been developed that examine the effects of western juniper removal, different restoration practices for cheatgrass-dominated rangelands, and fire and fire-surrogate effects. Initial results indicate that most practices for addressing cheatgrass related restoration cause the profitability of the ranch to decline and put them at greater risk of going out of business. The other practices have resulted in varying impacts on both the ranch and the environment.