Question of the Week
Answer: According to The National Grassbank Network, a grassbank is a partnership that leverages conservation practices across multiple land ownerships based on the exchange of forage for tangible conservation benefits. Grassbank can also refer to a physical place where cattle are temporarily located to feed on forage while home rangelands are undergoing restoration and conservation activities.
The concept of grassbanking is relatively new, dating from the early 1990s, and has great supporters as well as serious detractors. The greatest benefit of grassbanks is that they afford ranchers the ability to maintain production while implementing conservation or renovation practices on their own rangeland or riparian areas. Their weaknesses may be both financial and philosophical. Financially, grass banking is expensive. The costs associated with acquiring land and then operating the grass bank can be huge. Also, there is the question of where the money comes from, and whether it's appropriate to use public funds. Some object to grassbanking because they maintain that, while progressive, it doesn't address what they feel is the primary problem of range deterioration in the west—the question of whether livestock belong on the range in the first place.
Several groups have been involved in grassbanking, including Malpai Borderlands Group and the Quivira Coalition. NCAT is working to develop a series of grazing publications for the western US, and is utilizing the resources of these groups, as well as other resources listed below. The National Grassbank Network, for instance, has many useful links and some very good resources such as guidelines, research papers, and case studies.
Gripne, Stephanie. 2004. An Institutional Analysis of Grassbanking: A Collaborative Conservation Initiative.
A very well-done paper online in PDF, detailing the history of grassbanking and covering the economic, ecologic, social, and political challenges to the concept.
The National Grassbank Network
The Malpai Borderlands Group
Western Rangelands Partnership
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