Although remote sensing has many potential applications for range management, its use by range managers thus far has been limited. To investigate the factors that encourage use of remote sensing and to examine its influence on decision making by individuals who manage privately owned rangeland, we evaluated the decision-making processes of 3 ranch owners and 1 professional ranch manager who were introduced to remote sensing while collaborating with us in a rangeland stewardship program in California. Two of the participants had extensive ranching experience (11 to > 20 years) and managed large cattle ranches (1 000 to > 2 000 ha), and 2 had less experience and managed smaller sheep ranches (< 200 ha). During the 5-year program, the participants implemented a series of new management practices, including prescribed burning, rotational grazing, and seeding of native grasses, with the aim of reducing noxious weeds and increasing productivity. We used remote sensing to quantify the effect of these practices and provided ranch-wide remote sensing analyses to each manager on a password-protected Web site. Using case study methodologies, we found that managers of larger, commercially active ranches found the experimental use of remote sensing to be a highly positive experience that convinced them that this technology could help address difficult management situations and increase ranch profitability. This suggests that the broad use of remote sensing by managers of privately held, commercial rangelands may be limited in part by the simple lack of opportunity to test these technologies. Programs that assist ranchers in obtaining appropriate remote sensing products thus may be a cost-effective way to enhance conservation on private rangelands. Our findings suggest that voluntary self-analysis by ranchers of the landscape dynamics of their own properties is likely to lead to more engaged conservation efforts than will top-down prescriptions.
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Vol. 59 • No. 5