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Important Agricultural Lands in Southwestern Wyoming

Project Information

Christopher C Huber
Tags: Baseline Synthesis, Science

Title: Ranch.jpg

Agriculture is important to the historical identity of and current economic activity within the WLCI region. Understanding the social and economic values derived from agriculture helps policy planners and decision-makers to better assess the effects of landscape planning and conservation efforts in a broader (societal) context. Our study seeks to add more value to the WLCI Integrated Assessment (IA) by providing insights on the productivity and historical, ecological, and socioeconomic importance of agriculture across the WLCI landscape. Overall, this project will add another dimension to the WLCI IA’s inventory of integrated data and the WLCI data clearinghouse as a whole.

In FY2014, scientists with the USGS, the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture evaluated the quality and limitations of the datasets compiled in FY2013 for characterizing agricultural lands in the WLCI region. This work resulted in making refinements to the datasets, which then were used to develop digital maps for identifying the distributions of agricultural “importance” attributes across the WLCI landscape. Subsequently, these attributes were used to construct an index that assigned agricultural importance scores to agricultural lands, by subwatershed unit (hydrologic unit code 12, level 6; see p. 16 in Bowen, Anderson, Aldridge, and others, 2013, for more information on how the IA scores resource conditions by subwatershed units). The goal in FY2015 is to incorporate these watershed-level scores with the IA, which will provide users quick, easy access to the best existing information available for assessing multiple resource types and uses, including agriculture. Ultimately, this work lays the foundation for addressing two important lines of inquiry: (1) the roles of economics and other social sciences in landscape-level decisionmaking beyond agriculture; and (2) the gains that can be made from conducting a larger, yet more complete, assessment of local and societal perceptions regarding ranching and other agricultural practices within the WLCI region. Ultimately, the additional information generated by this project will support the WLCI committees and LPDTs and myriad other stakeholders as they grapple with difficult conservation planning and resource management decisions.


Bowen, Z.H., Aldridge, C.L., Anderson, P.J., Assal, T.J., Biewick, L.R.H., Blecker, S.W., Boughton, G.K., Bristol, S., Carr, N.B., Chalfoun, A.D., Chong, G.W., Clark, M.L., Diffendorfer, J.E., Fedy, B.C., Foster, K., Garman, S.L., Germaine, S., Hethcoat, M.G., Holloway, J., Homer, C., Kauffman, M.J., Keinath, D., Latysh, N., Manier, D., McDougal, R.R., Melcher, C.P., Miller, K.A., Montag, J., Olexa, E.M., Potter, C.J., Schell, S., Shafer, S.L., Smith, D.B., Stillings, L.L., Sweat, M.J., Tuttle, M., and Wilson, A.B., 2013, U.S. Geological Survey science for the Wyoming Landscape Conservation 60 Initiative -- 2011 annual report: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2013-1033, 145 p., at 


Products Completed in FY2014

  • Draft internal report detailing our methods.
  • Using the refined datasets compiled in FY2013, we drafted spatially explicit maps that illustrate the importance of agriculture.
  • Allen, Leslie, Montag, Jessica, Lyon, Katie, Soileau, Suzanna, and Schuster, Rudy, 2014, Rancher and farmer quality of life in the midst of energy development in Southwest Wyoming: WLCI Fact Sheet 5, 4 p., (Note: This product is an outcome of an earlier phase of this project to assess rancher and farmer perceptions of energy development in the WLCI region.)
Products Completed in FY2013
  • Compiled agricultural datasets from many organizations and government agencies. 
  • A literature review of, and interviews with experts about, agricultural history, ecology, productivity, and socioeconomics of Wyoming and elsewhere.
  • Methods were developed, baseline data were described, and simple analyses were conducted. 
  • All products completed in FY2013 will eventually be incorporated into a final report or manuscript when the project is completed. 

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