Home Money Matters Partnerships Demonstrate That Profitable Ranching and Healthy Ecosystems Go Hand in Hand

Partnerships Demonstrate That Profitable Ranching and Healthy Ecosystems Go Hand in Hand


Thanks to my co-author on this piece, Pete Bauman. He sent me the video and shared the key takeaways that makes the video so helpful. Pete is a Range Field Specialist for South Dakota State University Extension. His specialty is helping producers combine profitability and ecological balance.

Bill Sproul, Sedan, Kansas

Bill Sproul loves prairies and all that open space. He also likes that prairies don’t include many people.

But people, and working with them, are two of the things increasing his success.

“In order to keep a rancher ranching, he’s got to be viable and that’s where partnerships come in. The technical support is what I need because I don’t have that anywhere else and I don’t have time to read all of that. I need the people and the agencies to come out here and be with me too.”

Jim Faulstich, South Dakota

South Dakota rancher Jim Faulstich agrees. “We have found when we work together over a common interests and common ground, that we’ve been able to not only manage the resource better but be more profitable because of our development for cross fencing with grazing management and the water sources that takes.”

In this 7-minute video Bill and Jim take us on a tour of the amazing places they live and work. They talk about the partnerships that enhanced their success and the foundation of trust that made working together possible. You’ll also see how the work they are doing with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service breaks down the notion that you have to sacrifice ecology for profits.

As Pete Bauman says, “[Their] testimony is very clear: ecological indicators help them be assured that they are managing for long term resiliency. So, profit, ecology, wildlife, livestock health, and happiness go hand in hand. The work is still hard at times, but the unknowns like climate and other factors are mitigated when the focus is put in the right place….the grass.

Pete also finds that agency’s providing technical assistance and programs can be key to a rancher’s ability to hit the re-set button and get started in a new direction. Even better, as a result of working together, the rancher himself/herself gains knowledge and wisdom that often outpaces the program support over time. “This is a good thing,” he says, “It helps true stewards do the right thing because it is the right thing for the long haul, not the short term.”

Another of Pete’s takeaways from the video is the importance of grazing to the health of the land. He says, “There is certainly a necessity for areas that do not have livestock, in particular some public lands like parks, sanctuaries, etc. But we have to be clear that for the VAST majority of our remaining grasslands, we absolutely need successful, knowledgeable livestock managers who can be profitable on grass and can serve as advocates for grassland preservation and use. If we lose those people and their livestock  from the landscape, we lose all of the benefits of private grasslands, and the scattered parks and wildlife sanctuaries won’t be able to sustain a functioning ecosystem at the scale our ranchers are providing. I think many people have a perception that we could lose our ranchers and still be OK. Not so. We need to continue to recognize this fact. No ranchers leads to no cattle which leads to no profit on grass which leads to land conversion which leads to no wildlife and poorer air and water quality.”

We hope you’ll enjoy the messages that the ranchers and agency staff share in this video and that it will encourage you to reach out and build relationships that lead to more success for you and your landscapes.

Suggestions for Potential Partners

Check in with your local Natural Resources Conservation Service office. Talk to them about your challenges and ask them about technical and financial assistance they can provide. They can help you with:

• Grazing plans and the fencing and water sources you’ll need
• Practices that reduce soil erosion, reduce energy use, and improve water use efficiency
• Wildlife habitat conservation and improvement
• Carbon storage and sequestration

Click here to find the office nearest you.

Conservation Districts can also provide support and point you to additional resources. Click here to find one near you.

If you have other suggestions, do let us know!

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Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.


  1. I was encouraged, even moved, by this clip. Bill Sproul’s comments, in particular, should be required viewing for every agricultural agent, as well as ranchers. His attitude bespeaks more than a land ethic; it is also a “people ethic,” i.e., humans–even on sparsely-populated land–are created to live in community, as I see it, to work together to bring about mutual enrichment and benefit the creation upon which–amid which–they exist.

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