In this file:


         Ranchers are 'true heroes' of grasslands, conservation leader says

         Rancher finds profitability in creating grasslands on cropland



Ranchers are 'true heroes' of grasslands, conservation leader says


By Jenny Schlecht, Agweek (ND)

Sep 9, 2019


STREETER, N.D. Cattle and conservation haven't always been natural companions when it comes to how to manage grasslands. Many conservation programs have sought to keep cattle off the land, the thought being that cattle would damage the ecosystem of pollinators and birds and other species that rely on the grasslands. But the philosophy of how to best care for grasslands and the flora and fauna that call them home is changing.


"Cattle have historically gotten a bad rap on being bad for the environment, bad for our grasslands. And in the end, they were so wrong," said Kevin Sedivec, director of the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center in Streeter. "We finally understand the value of cattle in terms of conservation and keeping grass where grass should be at for the value in terms of the whole ecosystem function."


The National Wildlife Federation held the biennial America's Grasslands Conference Aug. 20-22 in Bismarck, and part of the focus was on the interplay between grazing and grassland health.


"We're here to try to build partnerships with landowners, with ranchers who really are the true heroes in this because they're the ones that are maintaining these grasslands, conservation groups, state agencies, federal agencies, really talking about restoring this world-class resource," said Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the federation.


Profitable ranches are important in keeping grasslands from being plowed under or otherwise degraded, O'Mara said.


"If we didn't have profitable ranching operations, we would have lost even more grasslands across the country," he said. "And I think some of our greatest grassland conservationists are our ranchers."


Research focus on future policy ...


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Rancher finds profitability in creating grasslands on cropland


By Jenny Schlecht, Agweek (ND)

Sep 9, 2019


BISMARCK, N.D. Jed Rider grew up on an irrigated sugar beet farm, but he always wanted to be a cowboy.


He and his family toiled for years on the irrigated farm in northwest North Dakota, harvesting crops that didn't quite pay off in the end. Still harboring his cowboy dream, Rider began reading about holistic management, sustainable agriculture and grazing. He wanted to run more cows than he could on his native pastures near Alexander, N.D., and in 2008, he talked his father-in-law into letting him switch 400 acres of cropland back into grasslands.


Rider, told the crowd on Aug. 21 at the America's Grasslands Conference in Bismarck about how he has created grasslands on former crop ground. Even with cropland rental rates, it's paying off.


"It's way more profitable," he said.


Rider's first planting, in 2008, consisted of a mix of grasses. That pasture has little resilience and "little margin for error," he explained. In a 2012 planting, he incorporated more diversity, adding native species like purple prairie clover, purple coneflower and maximilian sunflower. That did better, but not good enough, he said.


"There's not near enough color out in that pasture," he said.


In 2018, he added more diversity, because, he said, "Desperate soils call for desperate measures." The '18 planting was 65% forbs and legumes, like alfalfa, cicer milkvetch and clovers, and 35% grass species.


"I think it's going to work," Rider told the crowd. "I'll tell you in 15 years whether it does."


Creating grasslands, Rider said...