Important Agricultural Lands in Southwest Wyoming
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What Role does Agriculture Play in Conservation of the Southwest Wyoming Landscape?

Agriculture is one of Wyoming’s most profitable industries and has a strong presence in the WLCI area, accounting for nearly 18 percent of the State’s agricultural lands. Agriculture plays an important role in the economic activity and historic identity of people who live within the WLCI boundaries. Understanding the value of agriculture is important when evaluating landscapes for conservation planning and local development, particularly when other landscape uses may compete with agriculture. This understanding can help to ensure that the values of all land uses can be fully considered instead of focusing on single or few land uses.

To aid decisionmakers with difficult land-use choices, researchers worked with WLCI partners to develop the WLCI Integrated Assessment (IA), which displays the importance of many resource values on a readily accessible Web-based map. This study seeks to build upon the information used within the IA to include improved measures of agricultural productivity and historical, ecological, and socioeconomic dimensions of agriculture across the WLCI. The IA originally contained information on agricultural importance within the WLCI region but was limited in scope by incorporating only the productivity of agricultural lands. USGS economists were tasked with exploring ways to expand this information to include historical, ecological, and socioeconomic values.

Study Objectives

  • Coordinate with WLCI partners and other agencies to compile data on the productivity, historical, ecological, and socioeconomic values of important agricultural lands within the WLCI region.
  • Evaluate landscape-level limitations and usefulness of the compiled data.
  • Aid the WLCI in further developing an integrated information inventory, and improve upon the data clearinghouse and information management framework.
  • Use the compiled data in the Integrated Assessment to improve the information available about important agricultural lands in the WLCI area.
Map of importance values for agricultural lands in Southwest Wyoming.

Important agricultural lands index score results for the WLCI. Index results imply varying degrees of aggregate societal value for the ecological, historical, social, and productivity measures supported by agriculture within the region. Click to enlarge.

How Did We Determine the Importance of Agricultural Lands?

The Integrated Assessment is a support tool for landscape-scale conservation planning and evaluation as well as a data and analysis resource. To present the information in an easy to understand format the values found in the integrated assessment are displayed using a map. We began by conducting a literature review and meeting with a small group of WLCI members to decide how the Integrated Assessment would benefit from a more holistic view of important agricultural lands within the WLCI area. We then worked closely with a number of Federal, State, and local government agencies to compile relevant, existing data and house it in one location. The data were evaluated for potential usefulness and possible inclusion in the Web-based IA index map. Identification and cataloging of existing data  were synthesized into digital maps. Identified attributes were then used to construct an index which assigned scores of agricultural importance by watershed. Maps of calculated agricultural scores and all underlying data have been made available to the Integrated Assessment. The result is improved access to the best available information on agriculture within the region. This will add value to resources available for stakeholder decisionmaking, and will better assist the WLCI’s teams and committees such as the Local Project Development Team.

 

Project Products: Maps, Papers, Data, and Other Tools