Ranching BMPs

Ranching Best Management Practices (BMPs) are changes in land management practices on ranchlands that can be channeled towards achieving multiple positive environmental outcomes.

Medellín Water Fund, Colombia © TNC

Why are ranching BMPs implemented?

Ranching BMPs are typically implemented to maintain or improve the quality of water through maintaining and/or improving grazing management practices, range structures (e.g. access roads, water developments, fencing, grade stabilization, etc.), or land treatments (e.g. brush management, range seeding, edge of field treatments, etc.). These types of practices typically seek to reduce sediment and nutrient loadings (e.g. phosphorus, nitrogen) in order to protect or restore a water body that is impacted by one or more ranch’s operations. The profitability of the ranch’s operations will be a key concern for those stakeholders interested in engaging in the implementation of Ranching BMPs.

There are a wide variety of Ranching BMPs. A few examples include:

  • Silvopasture

    Silvopasture typically involves using rotational grazing to combine forestry and grazing of domesticated animals in a mutually beneficial way. The key advantages of a well-managed silvopasture operation are enhanced soil protection and increased long-term income due to simultaneous production of trees and grazing animals.
  • Fencing

    Fencing consists of installing physical barriers to protect water bodies from potential pollutants that may result from livestock accessing them. Fencing can be used to exclude livestock from key water bodies but can also be built to limit water access but still providing a water source the livestock require while still improving water quality.
  • Grazing Management

    This is the active management of how animals graze on pasture. For instance, this may involve the application of tools to influence the concentration of animals per hectare (intensification) or the system being used to control the timing of grazing in specific areas.


  1. Rangeland Management Guidance

    USDA: U.S. Forest Service

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  2. Rangeland Management Strategies

    Sustainable Agriculture Network

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  3. California: Best Management Practices for Water Quality

    U.S. Department of Interior: Bureau of Land Management

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  4. Optimization of BMPs for Beef Cattle Ranching in the Lake Okeechobee Basin

    USDA: U.S. Forest Service

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Additional useful references to search for:


Buckhouse, J.C.; Elmore, W. 1997. Grazing practice relationships: predicting riparian vegetation response from stream systems. In: Bedell, T.E.

Borman, M.M., eds. Watershed management guide for the interior Northwest. Ext. Man. 8436. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University, Extension Service: 47–52.

Chamberlain, D. J., & Doverspike, M. S. (2001). Water tanks protect streambanks. Rangelands, 23(2), 3-5.

Swanson, S., Wyman, S. and Evans, C. 2015. Practical Grazing Management to Maintain or Restore Riparian Functions and Values on Rangelands. Journal of Rangeland Applications, Volume 2.

Sanderson, H. Reed; Quigley, Thomas M.; Swan, Emery E.; Spink, Louis R. 1990. Specifications for structural range improvements. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNWGTR-250. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 120 p.

USDA Forest Service. 2012a. Groundwater-dependent ecosystems: level l inventory field guide: inventory methods for assessment and planning. Gen. Tech. Report WO-86a. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 191 p.

USDA Forest Service. 2012b. Groundwater-dependent ecosystems: level II inventory field guide: inventory methods for project design and analysis. Gen. Tech. Report WO-86b. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 124 p.

USDA Forest Service, 2012c. National Best Management Practices for Water Quality Management on National Forest System Lands, Volume 1: National Core BMP Technical Guide. FS-990a.