Great plains ranchers managing for vegetation heterogeneity a multiple case study

Stephanie Kennedy, Mark Burbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Grasslands are some of the most endangered ecosystems in the world because of row-crop expansion, urban expansion, encroachment of invasive trees and shrubs, and climate change, among other factors. Ecologists emphasize the need for vegetation heterogeneity within remaining grasslands as an important indicator of ecosystem health. Because private landowners are the predominant managers of grasslands in the Great Plains, the owners’ assistance in maintaining and restoring prairie ecosystems is essential. This study explicates four ranches within the Great Plains whose owners manage specifically for heterogeneity. Multiple case study analysis revealed three themes: (1) managing a prairie ecosystem is not the same as running a pasture, (2) good grassland management is good for everyone, and (3) partnerships are critical. Findings from rancher interviews suggest that it takes more than a mindset to conserve and restore the prairie—it takes proactive management for vegetation heterogeneity. The four ranchers participating in this study consider livestock production compatible with managing for vegetation heterogeneity. Managing for a broader suite of species is considered mutually beneficial to their business.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-148
Number of pages12
JournalGreat Plains Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation
  • Grazing
  • Qualitative
  • Ranching
  • Vegetation heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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