RIT Professor Studies the Economics and Ecology of Rangelands




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Preserving the health and viability of the open range in the United States and other parts of the world is the motivation behind a new book by a Rochester Institute of Technology professor.

Rangelands—where livestock and wildlife graze—comprise up to 40 percent of land in the United States, according to the Society for Range Management. These areas are ecological and economic systems susceptible to numerous factors such as drought and fire, as well as the number of animals and herders using the land, for example.

“Because humans depend on rangelands for consumptive and non-consumptive services, changes in rangeland health translate into changes in social welfare,” says Amitrajeet Batabyal, the Arthur J. Gosnell Professor of Economics at RIT and author of Stochastic Modeling in Range Management: Selected Essays, published by Nova Science Publishers Inc.

Although rangeland issues are typically considered more important in western states, the overuse and degradation of rangelands can have a wide impact beyond the cattle industry. Batabyal attributes the currently poor conditions of federal lands in the American West to overuse by private owners and warns of the dangers of irreversible damage. His collection of essays studies the impact of uncertainty on range management, and is targeted toward range ecologists and scientists, and researchers studying natural resource economics.

“Range managers are affected by things they can and can’t control,” Batabyal says. “They are always working in random environments that are characterized by a great deal of unpredictability.”

Batabyal’s studies give range managers a better idea of what policies work and the factors they can control. His essays cover such topics as short-duration grazing, the optimal number of paddocks for rangelands, the distribution of animals for short-term grazing, irreversible damage to rangelands, and crisis states. His work adds to the very few theoretical studies of rangelands in a field driven largely by case studies.

“The theoretical study of range management from an ecological-economic perspective calls for the adoption of a unified approach that pays equal attention to the ecological and to the economic aspects of the problem,” Batabyal says.

The formal study of rangeland management began in the early 20th century. The Society for Range Management, the field’s most prominent professional organization, was formed in 1948.

To speak to Amitrajeet Batabyal, contact Susan Gawlowicz at smguns@rit.edu or 585-475-5061.