The potential of invasive plants to alter fuel properties over time has implications for the ranchers of semiarid rangelands throughout the world. A prime example of this phenomenon is the cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) invasion of the native shrub-steppe lands in Great Basin of the western United States. The purpose of this study is to develop a bioeconomic model that optimizes simulated ranch behavior given the beginning stages of cheatgrass invasion on a public forage allotment. The bioeconomic model is applied to a typical eastern Oregon 300 cow-calf ranch. Livestock production decisions are simulated over a 40-yr planning horizon using a multiperiod linear programming model. Results showed changes in profit-maximizing ranch management strategies in the form of decreased optimal stocking rates and forage substitution. The net present value of the simulated ranch's income stream declined, and the probability that the ranch cannot meet its full costs of livestock production and would exit the industry increased as a result. These economic impacts were more pronounced with decreased sale price. Sensitivity analysis showed that overall results in terms of ranch behavior were specific neither to the assumed discount rate nor to the assumed percentage of cheatgrass cover (as long as this percentage is within the reference state) on the public grazing allotment. This study introduces a method for managers to quantify impacts on ranches from fuel-altering invasive plants on public lands, emphasizing the importance of including information about native and invasive forage production characteristics and wildfire frequency as a function of the state of invasion.
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Vol. 66 • No. 3