Nathan Sayre

Professor and Department Chair
PH.D. University of Chicago, 1999
Environmental geography; social dimensions of rangeland ecology and management; environmental history; scale; political economy; climate change; food; regional focus: southwestern US, northwestern Mexico, arid and semiarid rangelands

599 McCone Hall

Professor Nathan Sayre is a human geographer with interests in the transformation and management of the earth’s environment. He studies the management and ecology of rangelands, social theory and the transformations of Western rangelands under the influence of livestock production, urbanization and conservation.

Sayre is an affiliated social scientist with the Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and with the Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program there. In that role, he is also co-Principal Investigator on the Maps and Locals Project (MALS), a comparative research effort across 11 LTER sites in North America. His most recent book, Working Wilderness, is a case study of the Malpai Borderlands Group, a community-based conservation effort led by ranchers in far southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. His current research focuses on the political ecology of rangelands along the border in northwestern Mexico.

Professor Sayre’s teaching interests and philosophy reflect a broad training in the social sciences and more specialized expertise in Western environmental history, range ecology and management, environmental regulation and pastoralism. He also co-teaches a course on Global Warming with Professor John Chiang.

His research interests include ranching and pastoralism, rangeland ecology and management, history of range science, endangered species, scale, the state, Western environmental history, local ecological knowledge, conservation and urbanization/land use change.

Download Professor Sayre’s CV.

Selected publications

Sayre, Nathan F., and Adam Romero. Forthcoming. Carrying capacities paradigm. In Jean-Frederic Moran and Amandine Orsini, eds. Essential Concepts for Global Environmental Governance. Routledge/Earthscan.

Thomas E. Sheridan and Nathan F. Sayre. Forthcoming. A Brief history of people and policy in the West. Chapter 1 in Susan Charnley, Thomas Sheridan, and Gary P. Nabhan, eds. Stitching the West Back Together: Conservation of Working Landscapes in the American West. University of Chicago Press.

Susan Charnley, Thomas Sheridan, and Nathan F. Sayre. Forthcoming. Status and trends of Western working landscapes. Chapter 2 in Susan Charnley, Thomas Sheridan, and Gary P. Nabhan, eds. Stitching the West Back Together: Conservation of Working Landscapes in the American West.University of Chicago Press.

Thomas E. Sheridan, Nathan F. Sayre, and David Seibert. Forthcoming. Beyond “stakeholders” and the zero-sum game: Towards community-based collaborative conservation in the American West. Chapter 4 in Susan Charnley, Thomas Sheridan, and Gary P. Nabhan, eds. Stitching the West Back Together: Conservation of Working Landscapes in the American West. University of Chicago Press.

Huntsinger, Lynn, Nathan F. Sayre, and Luke Macaulay. In press. Ranchers, land tenure, and grass-roots governance: maintaining pastoralist use of rangelands in the U.S. in three different settings. IUCN Report.

Lave, Rebecca, Matthew Wilson, Elizabeth Barron, Christine Biermann, Mark Carey, Chris Duvall, Leigh Johnson, K. Lane, Nathan McClintock, Darla Munroe, Rachel Pain, James Proctor, Bruce Rhoads, Morgan Robertson, Jairus Rossi, Nathan F. Sayre, Gregory Simon, Marc Tadaki, and Christopher VanDyke. 2013. Intervention: Critical physical geography. The Canadian Geographer. DOI: 10.1111/cag.12061.

Knapp, Corrine Noel, James Cochran, F. S. Chapin III, Gary Kofinas, and Nathan F. Sayre. 2013. Putting local knowledge and context to work for Gunnison Sage-grouse conservation. Human-Wildlife Interactions 7: 195-213.

Sayre, Nathan F., Ryan J. McAllister, Brandon T. Bestelmeyer, Mark Moritz, and Matthew D. Turner. 2013. Earth stewardship of rangelands: coping with ecological, economic, and political marginality. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11(7): 348-354.

Booker, Kayje, Lynn Huntsinger, James Bartolome, Nathan F. Sayre, and Bill Stewart. 2013. What can ecological science tell us about opportunities for carbon sequestration on rangelands? Global Environmental Change 23: 240-251. DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.10.001.

Sayre, Nathan F., Eric Biber, and Greta Marchesi. 2013. Social and legal effects on monitoring and adaptive management: a case study of National Forest grazing allotments, 1927-2007. Society and Natural Resources 26: 86-94. DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2012.694579.

Sayre, Nathan F., Liz Carlisle, Gareth Fisher, Lynn Huntsinger, and Annie Shattuck. 2012. The Role of rangelands in diversified farming systems: innovations, obstacles, and opportunities in the USA. Ecology and Society 17(4): 43.

Huntsinger, Lynn, Nathan F. Sayre, and J. D. Wolfhorst. 2012. Birds, beasts and bovines: Three cases of pastoralism and wildlife in the USA. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2:12. DOI: 10.1186/2041-7136-2-12. URL:

Sayre, Nathan F., William deBuys, Brandon Bestelmeyer, and Kris Havstad. 2012. ‘The Range problem’ after a century of rangeland science: New research themes for altered landscapes. Rangeland Ecology and Management 65: 545-552.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2012. Carrying Capacity. In Robin Kundis Craig, Bruce Pardy, John Copeland Nagle, Oswald Schmitz, & William Smith (Eds.),The Encyclopedia of Sustainability, Vol. 5: Ecosystem Management and Sustainability, pp. 54-58. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2012. The Politics of the Anthropogenic. Annual Review of Anthropology 41: 57-70. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-anthro-092611-145846.

Rissman, Adena, and Nathan F. Sayre. 2012. Conservation outcomes and social relations: a comparative study of private ranchland conservation easements. Society and Natural Resources 25: 523-538. DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2011.580419

Briske, David, Nathan F. Sayre, Lynn Huntsinger, Maria Fernandez-Gimenez, Bob Budd, and Justin Derner. 2011. Origin, persistence, and resolution of the rotational grazing debate: Integrating human dimensions into rangeland research. Rangeland Ecology and Management 64: 325-334.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2011. A History of Land Use and Natural Resources in the Middle San Pedro Valley, Arizona. Journal of the Southwest 53: 87-137.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2011. Commentary: scale, rent, and symbolic capital: political economy and emerging rural landscapes. GeoJournal 76: 437-439.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2010. Entry for “Carrying Capacity.” In Barney Warf, ed. Encyclopedia of Geography. Sage Publications.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2010. Climate Change, Scale, and Devaluation: The Challenge of our Built Environment. Journal of Energy, Climate, and Environment1: 83-94.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2010. Climax and “Original Capacity”: The Science and Aesthetics of Ecological Restoration in the Southwestern USA. Ecological Restoration 28: 23-31.

Sayre, Nathan F., and Richard L. Knight. 2010. Potential effects of United States-Mexico border hardening on ecological and human communities in the Malpai Borderlands. Conservation Biology 24: 345-348.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2009. Land, labor, livestock and (Neo)Liberalism: Understanding the Geographies of Pastoralism and Ranching. Geoforum 40: 705-706.

Sayre, Nathan F., and Alan Di Vittorio. 2009. Scale. Chapter in Robert Kitchin and Nigel Thrift, eds. The International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. Elsevier.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2009. Bad Abstractions: Response to Sullivan. Conservation Biology 23(4): 1050-1052.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2009. Scale. Pp. 95-108 in Noel Castree, David Demeritt, Bruce Rhoads, and Diana Liverman, eds. A Companion to Environmental Geography. Blackwell Publishing.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2008. Assessing the Effects of the Grundrisse in Anglophone Geography and Anthropology. Antipode 40(5): 898-920.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2008. The Genesis, History, and Limits of Carrying Capacity. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 98(1): 120-134.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2007. Entries for “Carrying Capacity,” “US Fish and Wildlife Service,” “Endangered Species Act (1973),” “Natural Resource Conservation Service,” “Frederic Clements,” “Grazing,” and “Ranchers.” In Paul Robbins, ed. Encyclopedia of Environment and Society. Sage Publications.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2007. The Ranching and Mining Period. Desert Plants 23(2): 12-17 (special issue on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, edited by J. Bezy, C.F. Hutchinson, and C.J. Bahre

Sayre, Nathan F. 2007. A History of Working Landscapes: The Altar Valley, Arizona, USA. Rangelands (June): 41-45.

Huntsinger, Lynn, and Nathan F. Sayre. 2007. Introduction: The Working Landscapes Special Issue. Rangelands (June): 3-4.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2007. The Western Range: A Leaking Lifeboat for Conservation in the New West. In Laura Pritchett, Richard L. Knight, and Jeff Lee, eds. Home Land: Ranching and a West That Works. Denver: Johnson Books.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2006. Scott Prudham’s Knock on Wood: Nature as Commodity in Douglas-Fir Country. Antipode 38(5): 1073-1076.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2005. Working Wilderness: the Malpai Borderlands Group and the Future of the Western Range. Tucson: Rio Nuevo Press.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2005. Rangeland degradation and restoration in the “desert seas”: social and economic drivers of ecological change between the sky islands. Pp. 349-352 in Gerald J. Gotfried, Brooke S. Gebow, Lane G. Eskew and Carleton B. Edminster, compilers. Connecting mountain islands and desert seas: biodiversity and management of the Madrean Archipelago II. 2004 May 11-15; Tucson, AZ. Proceedings RMRS-P-36. Fort Collins, CO: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 631 p.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2005. Interacting effects of landownership, land use, and endangered species on conservation of Southwestern U.S. rangelandsConservation Biology 19(3): 783-792

Sayre, Nathan F. 2005. Ecological and geographical scale: parallels and potential for integration. Progress in Human Geography 29(3): 276-290.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2004. Viewpoint: The need for qualitative research to understand ranch management. Journal of Range Management 57: 668-674.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2003. Recognizing History in Range Ecology: 100 Years of Science and Management on the Santa Rita Experimental Range. Pp. 1-15 in Mitchel P. McClaran, Peter F. Ffolliott and Carleton B. Edminster, tech. coords. Santa Rita Experimental Range: 100 Years (1903-2003) of Accomplishments and Contributions; conference proceedings; 2003 October 30-November 1; Tucson, AZ. Proc. RMRS-P-30. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Sayre, Nathan F., and Maria Fernandez-Gimenez. 2003. The Genesis of Range Science, with Implications for Pastoral Development Policy. Pp. 1976-1985 in N. Allsopp, A.R. Palmer, S.J. Milton, K.P. Kirkman, G.I.H. Kerley, C.R. Hurt, and C.J. Brown, eds. Proceedings of the VIIth International Rangeland Congress. 26 July-1 August 2003, Durban, South Africa.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2002. Ranching, Endangered Species, and Urbanization in the Southwest: Species of Capital. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Curtin, Charles, Nathan F. Sayre, and Benjamin Lane. 2002. Transformations of the Chihuahua Borderlands: Grazing, Fragmentation, and Biodiversity Conservation in Desert Grasslands. Environmental Science and Policy 5: 55-68.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2001. The New Ranch Handbook: A Guide to Restoring Western Rangelands. Santa Fe: The Quivira Coalition.

Sayre, Nathan F. 1999. The Cattle Boom in Southern Arizona: Towards a Critical Political Ecology. Journal of the Southwest 41(2): 239-271.

Personal interests

Cycling, camping, cooking, carpentry, climbing, and my kids.