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Socio-Economic Effects Component of TLS Project

Larry Leistritz

Question1: What major problem or issue is being resolved and how are you resolving it?

This project addresses three specific objectives outlined in the TEAM Leafy Spurge proposal: (1) assess the economic impact of leafy spurge reduction and range restoration, (2) evaluate costs and benefits of biological control strategies (including grazing) and combinations of biological and chemical control strategies, and develop an economic decision model, and (3) evaluate managerial, institutional, and social factors that may inhibit implementation of various control strategies; develop approaches to enhance implementation; and assess the impact of the demonstration program on attitudes and perceptions of landowners, land managers, and area/local decision-makers.

Question 2: How serious is the problem? Why does it matter?

The annual economic impact of leafy spurge in the four-state area has been estimated at $130 million. The forage lost to leafy spurge infestations could support a herd of about 90,000 cows. The key to effective management of leafy spurge infestations is (a) determining which control strategies are most cost-effective under specific circumstances and (b) facilitating the adoption/implementation of these control practices by ranchers and public land managers.

Question 3: How does it relate to the National Program(s) and National Program Component(s) to which it has been assigned?

The TEAM Leafy Spurge project is a part of the USDA/ARS Area-Wide Management Program. It is a component of Crop and Commodity Pest Biology, Control and Quarantine (304). TEAM Leafy Spurge complements efforts to develop new and improved pest control technologies and assess component technologies for integrated pest management (IPM) systems.

Question 4: What were the most significant accomplishments this past year?

Surveys of ranchers, local decision makers, and public land managers in the TEAM Leafy Spurge (TLS) study area have been completed. The database includes information from 342 ranchers, 60 local decision makers, and 42 public land managers. The survey data provide unique insights (not previously available) concerning managerial, institutional, and social factors that may affect the rate and extent of implementation of various leafy spurge controls.

Question 5: Describe the major accomplishments over the life of the project, including their predicted or actual impact.

Findings from surveys of ranchers, local decision makers, and public land managers have been reported in three departmental research reports (Sell et al. 1998a,b, Sell et al. 1999). Key findings from these studies have been reported at Spurgefest ‘99 and at a meeting of the Nebraska Leafy Spurge Task Force (Aug. 13, 1999 in Broken Bow, NE). These findings will be further disseminated through professional journals (one article has been submitted) and via presentations to interested groups around the region.

An analysis of the benefits and costs of sheep grazing is nearing completion. The results will be reported in a departmental research report.
An APHIS-funded effort provided an initial assessment of the potential economic impact of biocontrol of leafy spurge. The findings have been published in a refereed journal (this contributes to objective 1 in item 1, above).

Question 6: What do you expect to accomplish, year by year, over the next 3 years?

Objective 1

In FY ‘99 the focus of efforts will be on defining alternative scenarios of leafy spurge reduction/range restoration and developing a preliminary assessment of economic impacts associated with the alternative scenarios. The scenarios will be designed to illustrate (1) a “best case” situation illustrating the greatest leafy spurge reduction/range restoration likely to be possible, over a 25-year time horizon, given full implementation of cost-effective practices and (2) one or more less optimistic scenarios reflecting slower implementation of leafy spurge control and range restoration practices. The difference in the economic impacts of the scenarios will reflect the cost to the regional economy of factors inhibiting full implementation.

In FY 2000, the economic impacts of the scenarios will be analyzed, and the results reported in a departmental research report. The results will also be reported at state and regional meetings as the opportunity arises.

In FY 2001, the results of the economic impact analysis will be formatted into an article for submission to a refereed journal. Dissemination of findings to state and regional meetings will also be a priority in year 5.

Objective 2

Documentation and demonstration of the economic decision model will be the primary activity during FY ‘99. The model is designed to provide information on the economics of various treatment alternatives under a variety of situations. The overall structure of the model will allow for comparison of the economics of cultural, biological, and chemical control alternatives based on a given set of treatment variables. The model will be designed to be usable on a wide range of IBM-compatible personal computers. The model will be demonstrated to a cross-section of researchers, land managers, and decision makers. Input from these persons will enable us to refine the model assumptions, as well as making it user-friendly.

During FY 2000, the model will be refined and recalibrated based on suggestions from the researchers, land managers, and decision makers who review it.

During FY 2001, final documentation will be prepared, and the model will be released for general use.

Objective 3

During FY’99, the initial survey of ranchers and local decision makers will be expanded to include Bowman and Slope Counties in North Dakota and Fallon and Wibaux Counties in Montana. The expanded database should be useful as TLS personnel disseminate project findings outside the initial study counties.

During FY 2000, the focus will be on further dissemination of the findings from the first three years’ work, as well as preparing survey instruments for the survey of ranchers, local decision makers, and public land managers to be conducted in FY 2001.

During FY 2001, a survey of ranchers, local decision makers, and public land managers will be conducted. The results of this survey will be compared to those from the initial survey effort to measure changes in respondents’ attitudes and perceptions, which will provide one measure of the impact of the program. In addition, specific questions will be included to determine the respondents’ awareness of the TLS program and specific program activities.

Question 7: What science and/or technologies have been transferred and to whom? When is the science and/or technology likely to become available to the end user (industry, farmer, other scientists)? What are the constraints, if known, to the adoption and durability of the technology products?

Results of the surveys of ranchers, public land managers, and local decision makers have been summarized in departmental research reports. A short summary of each major report has been prepared and distributed to TLS participants and other interested parties, as well as to all survey participants who requested a copy. We anticipate using a similar approach to disseminate the findings of other phases of our work.

Question 8: List your most important publications in the popular press and presentations to non-scientific organizations and articles written about your work.


“Perceptions of Leafy Spurge by Ranch Operators and Local Decision Makers: An Update,” presentation at 1999 Leafy Spurge Symposium, Medora, ND, June 29, 1999 (R. Sell).

“Economic Analysis of Sheep Grazing of Leafy Spurge: Preliminary Results,” presentation at 1999 Leafy Spurge Symposium, Medora, ND, June 29, 1999 (D. Bangsund).

“Economic Impact of Leafy Spurge Infestations in Nebraska,” “Economics of Various Herbicide Treatment Programs on Leafy Spurge,” and “Economics of Using Sheep Grazing as Leafy Spurge Control,” presentation at 12th Annual Nebraska Leafy Spurge Conference and Tour, Broken Bow, NE, August 12, 1999. (R. Sell)


Randy Sell. Radio interview with Tom Hilkemeier, KCNI 1280, KBBN fm 98, Custer Co. Broadcasting Co., Broken Bow, NE, Aug. 12, 1999, re. economic impact of leafy spurge on the Nebraska economy.

Question 9: Scientific Publications

Bangsund, D. A., F. L. Leistritz, and J. A. Leitch. 1999. “Assessing economic impacts of biological control of weeds: The case of Leafy Spurge in the Northern Great Plains of the United States.” Journal of Environmental Management 56: 35-43.
Sell, Randall S., Dean A. Bangsund, and F. Larry Leistritz. 1999. “Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula L. EPHES): Perceptions by Ranchers and Land Managers.” manuscript submitted to Weed Science.

Sell, Randall S., Dean A. Bangsund, and F. Larry Leistritz. 1999. Perceptions of Leafy Spurge by Ranch Operators and Local Decision Makers: An Update. Agr. Econ. Stat. Series Rpt. No. 56. Fargo: North Dakota State University.

Sell, Randall S., Dean A. Bangsund, F. Larry Leistritz, and Dan Nudell. 1998a. Ranch Operators’ Perceptions of Leafy Spurge. Agr. Econ. Rpt. No. 400. Fargo: North Dakota State University, 47 pp.

Sell, Randall S., Dean A. Bangsund, F. Larry Leistritz, and Dan Nudell. 1998b. Perceptions of     Leafy Spurge by Public Land Managers, Local Decision Makers, and Ranch Operators. Agr. Econ. Rpt. No. 406. Fargo: North Dakota State University, 55 pp.
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