Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Natural Resource Management

First Advisor

Roger N. Gates


forage production, forest cover, forest management, livestock grazing, livestock management, tree cover


Forested lands contribute to the United States (US) economy by providing livestock and timber production. Livestock grazing of forested lands has been widespread throughout the western US since the settlement era, and currently occurs on 51.4 million hectares (ha) representing 16% of all US grazing land and 22% of all US forested land (Nickerson et al. 2011). While livestock grazing and timber harvest are occurring on a substantial amount of forested land, relationships between management practices, tree stocking, timber production, forage production, livestock grazing, wildlife, aesthetics, and ecological integrity are not well documented. Whether considering timber or cattle, finding a balance between production and resource conservation is a fundamental challenge to agricultural producers, and is often a tradeoff between short term gains and long term sustainability. This dissertation aims to identify livestock and timber management practices that optimize production and are ecologically conservative. Specifically, I focused on three objectives. First, I reviewed the published literature and summarized what is known about best-practices for concurrent management of livestock and timber production in pine forests in the US. I found most studies came from the southeastern and western US where timber and livestock production on the same land unit are common. The relationship between pine cover and forage seemed fairly consistent across the US, and production was optimized when cattle grazed open canopy forests with basal areas between 5 and 14 m2 ha-1 (15-35% tree canopy cover). Second, I developed forest cover maps to estimate forage production in the Black Hills, South Dakota (SD) for the period from 1999 to 2015. I developed a regression model based on Landsat and Ikonos satellite imagery and was able to detect large changes in forest cover over time. I then used these maps in combination with maps of soil type and Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) to update forage production estimates for the region. These changes in forest cover have large implications for forage production in the Black Hills. Over the 15 year period, mean tree cover decreased in 181 pastures in the Mystic Ranger District by 17.6 ± 0.6%, and there was a corresponding 15.5 ± 0.6% increase in mean forage production. Third, I conducted a 2 -year field experiment in the Black Hills, SD to study the relationships between management practices such as livestock stocking rates, grazing pressure, and timber harvest history, and aspects of resource condition such as tree regeneration, forage production, and plant community composition. From 2014-2015, I visited 44 pastures across a spectrum of management practices and measured seedling regeneration (590 plots), plant species richness (393 plots), primary production (246 plots), and visual obstruction (120 transects). I found that cattle grazing did not affect ponderosa pine regeneration. Grazing did affect plant diversity, and I found the highest plant diversity in areas of moderate grazing pressure. This work suggests that moderate stocking rates should have no effect on the timber industry but could positively affect native plant diversity. In the conclusion, I summarize what I learned from the literature review, mapping exercise, and field study and provide some management recommendations based on this work. Overall, I found that updated forage production estimates based on satellite imagery, and using grazing pressure index (GPI) to identify optimal stocking rates are tools that can facilitate management of livestock and timber production in the Black Hills, SD.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Forest management -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)

Forest ecology -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)

Natural resources -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.) -- Management.

Grazing -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)

Cattle -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)

Livestock -- Ecology -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)

Timber -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)


Includes bibliographical references



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright