Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2011


Great Plains Research Vol. 21, No. 2, 2011


© 2011 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


Much of the book is devoted to discussing the heavy human dependence on grasslands and whether this relationship can be maintained in company with grassland conservation. Can humans continue to use grasslands for food, fiber, and newer uses like biofuels and carbon banking while still sustaining the ecosystem? Many of us in academic ecology struggle with resolving perceived conflicts between conservation and human grassland use. In many cases, a "win-win" scenario exists in which, for example, the proper use of livestock grazing is perfectly compatible with a healthy grassland ecosystem. In other cases, such as conserving prairie dog populations, tensions have to be negotiated. Truett discusses some promising strategies that benefit both conservation and landowner concerns, such as conservation easements, conservation grants, and ecotourism. Grasslands comprise the western "wide open spaces" that figure prominently in the country's imagination. Not many of us, even ardent conservationists, are eager to see the iconic ranching and cowboy culture disappear. Truett, however, points out that making a living in these remote areas is not going to get any easier, especially with the dwindling supply and increased cost of fossil fuels. Maintaining miles of fence line, for example, involves huge outlays in transportation costs. A clear-eyed view of expenses versus profit in ranching does not paint a rosy picture for continued economic viability. In fact, Truett makes the point that most existing ranch operations have significant subsidies, often in the form of a wife's job in town.