Date of this Version
M.G. Ahamad Environmental Challenges 7 (2022) 100474. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envc.2022.100474
Grassland conservation of the Conservation Stewardship Program in the United States (US) is one of the largest cost-sharing initiatives for protecting grazing land from invasive and woody plants. The practice cost and unit size of various invasive and woody plant management strategies, such as mulching, brush management, and pre- scribed burning, are different from state to state. We aimed to compare and examine the association between practice cost ($/acre[ac]) and standard unit size of practice (acre) of mulching, brush management, and pre- scribed burning strategies in nine US Great Plains states, including Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. We estimated state-level average practice cost and unit size of mulching, brush management, and prescribed burning strategies using the conservation pay- ment data of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to determine a cost-minimizing management strategy. A linear regression model was used to understand the association between practice cost and unit size of different management strategies and states. Practice cost and unit size differ by invasive and woody plant manage- ment strategy and Great Plains state. In the nine US Great Plains states, prescribed burning costs less on average ($29/ac) than mulching ($222/ac) and brush management ($152/ac) but covers a larger area on average (239 acres/unit) than mulching (3.19 acres/unit) and brush management (132 acres/unit). From the regression results, we also find a significantly negative association between practice cost and unit size (Coef. = -0.18, p < 0.05). For prescribed burning, the practice cost is significantly lower (Coef. = -148.70, p < 0.00) than the reference category of mulching. Our findings imply a policy idea that prescribed burning could be a cost-minimizing and high- coverage strategy than brush management in managing woody invasion under existing cost-unit size framework. Alternatively, expanding the typical unit sizes of a small covering strategy such as mulching could be another policy option for further assessment.