Integrative Conservation Strategies

Our powerful process of developing Integrative Conservation Strategies customizes solutions to each client’s situation. Here’s how:

Step 1 (Ecological Research): We start by synthesizing the latest and best scientific literature and traditional ecological knowledge about (a) the conservation impact(s)/risks of concern, and (b) the best management practices (BMPs) that scientists, indigenous peoples, and other stewards have documented to address each impact/mitigate each risk in the client’s location;

Step 2 (Social Science Research): Next, we review the latest and best social science (economic and behavior change-focused) research about (a) benefits vs. costs of each solution, leveraging “bright spot” business case success stories; and (b) how to motivate people to participate in solutions. The goal of this step is to enhance participation and results.

Step 3 (Stakeholder Consultations): Recognizing that it is the actions of people that our clients aim to change, we conduct multi-stakeholder consultations that (a) seek to understand key barriers (economic, social, political, logistical) limiting adoption of recommended solutions, and (b) collaboratively brainstorm to identify solutions to each barrier. 

Step 4 (Integration): We integrate scientific findings with results of stakeholder consultations to develop an Integrative Conservation Strategy that generates valuable environmental and economic benefits, and thus serves as a Conservation Value Solution.

Selected Applications:

  • Representing NRDC, Dr. Gelbard collaborated with Rainforest Alliance experts in sustainability standards and certification and a Food Alliance auditor/rancher to research, co-author and pilot (on ranches totaling over one million acres across three different U.S. regions) the Grasslands Alliance Standard for beef cattle ranches and farms. This comprehensive standard translated scientific recommendations for conserving grazed landscapes into principles, criteria and indicators of well-managed ranching. It is the first sustainability standard that includes the full range of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies available to the North American ranching sector.
    • As part of stakeholder consultations for NRDC’s beef sustainability efforts, Dr. Gelbard produced and directed the Sustainable Grazing Metrics & Standards Summit Workshop in partnership with UC Davis and Cornell. We convened 40+ eminent scientists, public and private land managers, technical assistance specialists, and NGO experts to discuss and seek feedback on NRDC’s draft grazing metrics. This meeting led to the establishment of the Grasslands Alliance.
  • The types of sustainable ranching practices incentivized via the Grasslands Alliance standard not only benefit our environment, but also improve forage and livestock productivity, efficiencies of input use (e.g., healthy plants and soils enable ranchers to cut fertilizer and weed control costs), and resilience to drought.
    • Studies have found that use of fencing and off-stream water to keep grazing livestock from polluting streams not only benefits water quality and the heath of species-rich “riparian” habitats. It results in more even distribution of grazing cattle across ranches, so that animals consume more upland forage and gain more weight.
    • Click here for an overview of how the Grasslands Alliance’s sustainable ranching standard and certification can benefit ranchers and farmers, brands and institutional buyers, and consumers and conservationists alike.
  • During our work on Hicks Mountain Ranch, we identified several small, early-stage infestations of the noxious weed, Medusahead. This weed not only threatens native plant biodiversity and reduces forage and livestock productivity. It can reduce livestock carrying capacity by up to 70%, curtailing the ranch’s value in real estate and grazing lease markets. Not only did we detect the infestations early, while they were still small. We provided the ranch manager with the latest scientific recommendations about how to control and even eradicate the infestations. Results from the first year’s treatments are promising.