Case Studies: The Deseret Land & Livestock Ranch

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The Deseret Land & Livestock Ranch—Managing Rangelands for Wildlife & Livestock

The Deseret Land & Livestock Ranch (DLL) is 200,000 acres (80,000 ha) of private land on elevations that range from 6,300 to 8,700 feet (2,100-2,900 m). Currently DLL runs 4,500 mother cows and 4,000 yearlings as well as providing 56,880 AUM of forage for wildlife.  This is a 100% increase since they began managing holistically in 1983.

Once the ranch team was clear about the synergy they were creating on the ranch as they focused on all the animals, the various habitat needs (land), and the people managing those resources, they began to look at how they could collaborate with their neighbors. We had to take the Deseret beyond its borders by managing for large game herds and creating a synergistic relationship of the wildlife, so we worked with neighboring ranches to understand their needs since their success was vital to the successful management of the wildlife herds on the DLL.”

-Rick Danvir, Wildlife Manager

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints bought the ranch in 1983. By 1987, the ranch was making a profit, but there was conflict between the wildlife and cattle divisions of the ranch as how the expenses for various projects should be accounted for.  It was evident that DLL could not be profitable from cattle or wildlife alone.  They needed multiple revenue sources.  Once the ranch team bought into the need for both revenue centers and had a financial mechanism that fairly distributed the expenses of shared costs, they looked beyond their fence lines for collaboration with their neighbors. Their concern for their neighbors’ welfare worked and they joined together as a Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit.  Using DLL as example, Rick regularly makes presentations on understanding that wildlife is an asset and ranchers should actively manage for them. The four tools the DLL experiments with the most are:  animal impact, grazing, technology, (mechanical clearing), and  fire.

Over the years, the DLL management principles have evolved to:

  • Observe what nature is trying to do in this environment, and manage harmoniously
  • Understand the weather drives the system and manage accordingly
  • Manage holistically, focusing on water cycle, mineral cycle, succession, and energy flow
  • Understand and manage the effects of animal impact and the role of living organisms in the system
  • Increase the ecological and economic value of the resource
  • Generate profit—money allows good people to do good things

With over 25 years’ experience of managing holistically, the DLL has learned a lot about the management of land, livestock, wildlife, and people. Their commitment to conservation and profitability has led them down a path of improved resource management and ever greater use of the tool of human creativity. A critical piece to their success has been their desire to learn from others and to work with others beyond the borders of their own landscape, once again demonstrating the importance of collaborating with those who livelihoods depend on the resources in question to create successful conservation programs.

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