Rangeland Monitoring – What’s it all about?
The Land Department manages over 9 million acres of State Trust land and about 88% is leased for livestock grazing. In many cases, a typical ranch is composed of State Trust, federal and private land. Regardless of land ownership, rangeland monitoring is an important part of managing the rangeland resources of soil, water, plants and wildlife. Simply put, rangeland monitoring entails documenting change over time by repeated measurements at specific locations.
A ranch management plan will identify goals and objectives that are mutually agreeable between the involved parties. Rangeland monitoring provides the feedback (data) on whether progress is being made towards meeting the goals and objectives. Many considerations are necessary when it comes to monitoring – some of the foremost are selecting where and what data will be gathered on a ranch.
Locations of Rangeland Monitoring
Many ranches are large with varying types of vegetation, topography and soils. Since it is not practical to monitor the entire range, the approach is to focus on representative sites called key areas. A key area is representative of a larger area that is accessible to grazing animals and has some potential to change in response to climate or management actions. Ideally, a key area would have a population of the desired forage species for livestock and wildlife.
Rangeland Monitoring Consists of..
There are a whole host of attributes related to vegetation, soil and animal impact that can be measured or estimated. Some vegetative attributes include ground cover, basal area, density, frequency and species composition. In general, the type of plants present and ranch management plan objectives will help establish which attributes to measure. In addition, repeat photographs, precipitation data, and information on livestock use and wildlife observations are used to assist managers in interpreting why certain trends occur.
The conservation and management of rangelands is important to society, as they provide habitat, recreation areas, water and forage for domestic livestock and wildlife. Rangeland monitoring is a systematic way to determine effectiveness of current management practices and teaches participants about natural systems. The Land Department’s Range Section is involved with collaborative rangeland monitoring (see photo) with our grazing lessees and state and federal agency personnel.