Promoting sustainable ranching

Tracy Schohr, a former California Cattlemen's Association staffer, recently took over as a University of California Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources adviser based in Quincy, Calif. She said she plans to be a resource for ranchers.

CHICO, Calif. — Tracy Schohr has devoted much of her career to promoting sustainability in ranching.

While at the California Cattlemen’s Association, she put on an annual “rangeland summit” that brought ranchers together with environmental experts and climate change policymakers.

She also worked on a program to limit ranchers’ risk of facing Endangered Species Act violations if they created habitat on their land.

After going back to school to earn her master’s degree at the University of California-Davis, Schohr has become a UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources adviser based in Plumas, Sierra and Butte counties.

“At CCA, I realized that science was really where it’s at,” said Schohr, 34, noting that science is the basis not only for regulations but for solutions.

“It’s exciting and challenging at the same time,” she said. “Agriculture does a lot of great things but is really bad at telling the story ... of all that ranchers do for natural resources and caring for livestock.”

In her role, she will conduct education programs and research focusing on livestock production and sustainable range and pasture management, according to a news release.

She has plenty of experience as a farmer and rancher, growing up on a farm in Gridley, Calif., that still produces walnuts, rice and cattle. She is a managing partner for Schohr Ranch, handling tasks related to livestock production, accounting, equipment operation, human resources and marketing.

“I think it provides a unique opportunity for me” to know what other farmers have to go through to cope with regulations and other hurdles, Schohr said.

Having earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural business from California State University-Chico, Schohr went to work for the CCA in 2004, serving for two years as director of industry affairs.

In 2006, she became director of rangeland conservation for the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, a collaborative effort to get agriculture and environmental groups and government agencies to promote working rangelands as a tool for caring for the environment.

The coalition’s 101 partners ranged from county supervisors and conservation districts to green groups such as the Nature Conservancy. The CCA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service combined to fund the position held by Schohr, who worked out of the CCA office.

Formed in 2005, the organization sponsors the annual Rangeland Summit, which enabled ranchers, land managers, agency officials and conservationists to learn about cooperative conservation, research results and working landscapes.

Among its other initiatives, the coalition worked with Fish and Wildlife to set up so-called “safe harbor agreements” that would shield private landowners from violations of the Endangered Species Act if they made habitat improvements on their properties.

“There was discussion with the leadership and the officers at the time about trying to develop a greater recognition about how grazing fit in with natural resources,” Schohr said. “It really mirrored what the rice industry had done to change the perception of that industry.”

But the CCA withdrew its support for one such agreement in Northern California in 2010 after receiving push-back from some members concerned about the deal’s impact on non-participating neighboring landowners.

Many farmers and ranchers have shown more willingness to work with agencies and environmental groups in recent years, perhaps spurred on by the severity of the recent drought.

In Siskiyou County, for instance, customers of the Scott Valley Irrigation District obtained a permit to divert high winter flows and apply them to alfalfa fields to help with groundwater recharge.

“I think you can learn a lot of lessons with challenges,” Schohr said. “I think recognizing that all of ag isn’t the same is one. Also, when you’re working with ranchers, two-way communication is key. That’s something I’m taking into my new position.”

While in Davis, Schohr worked in the Department of Plant Sciences from 2012 to 2014, where she helped with research projects related to irrigated pasture, mountain meadows, livestock predation, annual rangelands and invasive species.

For two years before joining the UCCE, Schohr was a farmer outreach specialist for K-COE Isom, a national agricultural accounting and consulting firm.

As a UCCE livestock and natural resources adviser based in Quincy, Calif., Schohr said she plans to sit down with area ranchers and “develop a short-term and long-term vision.”

She’ll be conducting a Beef Quality Assurance training session in Quincy and Loyalton, Calif., on Jan. 19-20.

Schohr said she’s bringing three “key visions” into her new job.

“For one, I will be a resource for ranchers in the area (navigating) regulations and policies,” she said, noting that she could let producers know who to contact for predator investigations.

Secondly, her research will focus on helping ranches remain economically successful while also educating those in other fields about the importance of ranching to the overall economy, she said.

And finally, Schohr will be part of a broader network of UC researchers and specialists who are already making a difference for ranchers, she said.

Being a fourth-generation rancher whose family summered cattle up on the Sutter Buttes when she was a child will help her relate to producers and give her a valuable perspective on research, she said.

“It gives me a good understanding when we’re looking at developing research ... to recognize how the research fits into the broader world, how it fits in economically and making sure the research being done is of value to producers,” she said.

Tracy Schohr

Occupation: Farmer and rancher; University of California Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources adviser

Age: 34

Hometown: Gridley, Calif.

Family: Significant other Ryan Imbach; son Colton


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