Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2013


Great Plains Research 23.1 (Spring 2013), pp. 51-58.


Copyright © 2013 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Ranchers in the Great Plains and across the United States face the threat of periodic drought. Though ranchers might minimize losses through drought-preparedness activities, many do not adequately prepare for drought, in part because of perceptions that the outcomes of drought management are not controllable. We explore how drought planning activities affect ranchers' perceptions of control and drought preparedness using the theories of planned behavior and goal attainment as guiding frameworks. Ten Great Plains ranchers who had engaged in drought management activities were interviewed about their plans. From the interviews, three activities emerged that appeared to increase ranchers' perceived control during drought: maximizing the health and flexibility of the ranch operation, monitoring precipitation and forage, and implementing "decision rules" as drought conditions became apparent and progressed. The actions supported greater perceived control in the face of drought by increasing the number of desirable options available to ranchers, increasing ranchers' confidence in predicting the effects of their actions, and providing "mental practice" for decision making during a drought event. This exploratory research demonstrates the value of incorporating theories of planned behavior and goal attainment into applied research on rangeland management and drought planning behavior, and suggests directions for future research and education.