A myriad of factors interact to influence — and often cause the failure of — family ranches. Colorado State University students will have an opportunity to study these factors and their relationships to each other through a new graduate program designed to help participants make more enlightened management decisions and enhance economic potential of family ranches.
The program, offered for the first time this fall by the university’s Western Center for Integrated Resource Management, is one of the first educational programs in the nation to approach all land-use and resource-management factors with integrated courses and instruction. It’s a merger of disciplines from within four colleges: Natural Resources, Agricultural Sciences, Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and Liberal Arts.
The lifestyle of the west is rapidly changing and rural economies often suffer as family farms fail. The program is designed with the belief that successful land management in the current environment requires and understanding of how the land, water, animals, humans and finances interact to influence long-term sustainability and profits.
"Academic research and education programs directed toward ranching and other resource and land-use professions traditionally have focused on narrow disciplinary confines rather than looking at the entire system of land-use management and issues," said Kraig Peel, an animal sciences professor who is coordinating the program. "Colorado State focuses on looking at the way land and resources can be and are used – ranches, public lands and non-ranching private uses – in a context that incorporates all of the influences on land."
In addition to being among the first programs of it’s kind, the graduate-level classes also are offered in a new modular format that allows students to complete a three-credit course in two weeks. The format is designed to fit the needs of full-time and part time students as well as professionals who may want to attend just a few classes to enhance their skills. Each course is intensive and requires full-time attendance for six hours a day on weekdays for the two-week period.
The influence of urban growth on livestock ranching is one of the influences on land-management that will be addressed in the program. Ranching contributes more than 65 percent of Colorado’s agricultural economy and is the foundation of most rural communities, but the outlook for long-term sustainability is imperiled because of low profits and pressures from urban neighbors, said Peel. In addition, Colorado sports more public land than any other state in the nation except Alaska with more than 25 million acres of national and state parks and forests. Land-use for recreation and agriculture are the mainstay of the state’s economy.
"There aren’t many master’s programs in these disciplines that aren’t research intensive," said Peel. "It’s also difficult for professionals to fit graduate school into their schedules if they don’t want to go full-time, so the format of this program provides an additional benefit."
The program was designed with input from agricultural producers and other professionals in related fields whom overwhelmingly requested more in-depth, practical education that could be directly applied to real-world situations. Courses include management, business, land-resource management, animal management and production, grazing and public policy emphasis.
For more information about the program visit www.wcirm.colostate.edu or call 970-491-1610.