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Strategic Ranchland
in the Rocky Mountain West
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Mapping the Threats to Prime Ranchland in Seven Western States

Acres of Strategic Ranchland At Risk in the
Rocky Mountain West 2000-2020

These strategic ranchlands at risk are the most vulnerable to low-density residential development by the year 2020. Keeping these lands in working agriculture is critical to maintaining local and regional agricultural economies, plant and wildlife habitat and open space.

To identify strategic ranchlands at risk in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, we used a Geographic Information System to:

  1. Locate prime ranchlands using land-cover and land-use variables to highlight areas with high quality agricultural land and desirable wildlife characteristics, including:
    • rural development densities;
    • proximity to publicly owned lands;
    • year-round water availability;
    • mixed grass and tree cover; and
    • high variety of vegetation classes.
  2. Target threatened ranchlands by locating:-
    • rural areas projected to grow to suburban density in the next 20 years;
    • major road corridors in counties with growth rates higher than 10 percent per decade.
  3. Identify strategic ranchlands at risk as those found to be both prime and threatened. Sprawling residential developments are replacing large mountain ranches that provide:
    • agricultural products, employment and income,
    • important wildlife habitat and open space, and
    • cultural heritage in western communities

Notes: Due to data limitations, this analysis does not include ground water information in evaluating prime ranchlands and, therefore, may not show high production values on ground water dependent ranchlands. Due to data limitations and financial constraints, this analysis may classify row crop lands as ranchlands in highly integrated agricultural ecosystems.

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