“Alone on the range? How ranchers of the New American West are maintaining and rebuilding community connections.”

Authors: Hailee Nolte*,
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Rural Geography
Keywords: Ranchers, Rural, Rangeland, Workings Landscapes, Community, Collaboration, Public Lands
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Ranchers are a part of a rapidly changing rural western American Landscape. They have a special role in protecting and stewarding working landscapes. For some time now, the West’s resource extraction economy has been eclipsed by the growth of an amenity economy centered around commercial and professional services, telecommunications, information technology, recreation and retirement (Travis, 2007). Many studies have found that these new amenity economies have gentrified range in rural communities and have disrupted ranches throughout the West. We are interested in communities that, despite the changing economies, have not fully gentrified their rangelands. Rural communities in Eastern Oregon and Northeastern California have deeply rooted identities, economies, connections to ranching and a high percentage of federal lands. The aim of this research is to identify how ranchers are maintaining their lifestyle under these circumstances. To answer these questions, I interview ranchers, public land agency representatives and key stakeholders that have long standing ties to the ranching industry in two communities. We find that ranchers are actively maintaining and rebuilding their connections in the community, local government, collaboratives and public land agencies to not only maintain their businesses, but also to create a space for healing both the land and their community. This research contributes to working landscapes literature of the American West by capturing a regional account of local rancher, rural community and public land agency relationships in an understudied area.

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