New Monitoring Systems on the Horizon for Rangelands

The authors of an article featured in Rangeland Ecology & Management provide an overview of strategies the Bureau of Land Management can use to streamline data collection and make land monitoring more efficient. These strategies would increase communication with stakeholders, promote land health and capture more relevant data.

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Being responsible for approximately 1 million square kilometers of rangeland is a difficult task for the BLM, a task that more effective and efficient data collection should make simpler.

Lawrence, Kansas (PRWEB) January 28, 2014

Rangeland Ecology & Management – The western United States is home to large areas of rangeland resources. These vast areas are primarily used as grazing lands and cover approximately 53% of the western United States and 36% of the entire country. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is charged with overseeing management of a large portion of these lands, including livestock grazing and conserving sensitive species and their habitats. However, the BLM may need new and more effective monitoring systems to help keep up with such an expansive area, roughly 1,000,000 km2.

The data the BLM collects is helpful in determining the reasons that some land fails to meet Land Health Standards (LHS). However, over the past several decades, the BLM has been heavily criticized for the methods it uses to collect data, including what areas are monitored, and how consistently the data is collected, analyzed, and interpreted. Unfortunately, the criticism has sent the BLM into litigation, mainly with landowners, and mainly over grazing rights. The article “Monitoring of Livestock Grazing Effects on Bureau of Land Management Land” in Rangeland Ecology & Management provides an overview of different strategies the BLM can use to streamline data collection, making the monitoring of their land more efficient and effective.

The authors began by sorting through 310 randomly selected files from 13 different field offices; they then compared data with that of the LHS. Next, they contacted 20 federal and 22 university rangeland scientists with a list of pointed questions to obtain expert opinions, and finally, they completed statistical analyses from the field office data. Overall, the results maintained that data collection processes needed to be streamlined and conducted on a more regular cycle. The authors suggested collecting data on a rotational 5-year cycle for various land units. This should increase communication and involvement with direct stakeholders (i.e., the landowners), promote greater land health, and it should help to capture more relevant, up-to-date data. The authors also suggest more effort should be focused on grazing-related data. These data should emphasize ground cover, which will also take into consideration climate and weather data and vegetation trends, all of which heavily impact how much land is suitable for grazing. Finally, identifying at-risk areas that may need special management attention will help in prioritizing data maintenance and collection.

Being responsible for approximately 1 million square kilometers of rangeland is a difficult task for the BLM, a task that more effective and efficient data collection should make simpler. The authors have provided a solid point for where to begin, but collaboration from many different institutional levels will be required to bring these new ideas to fruition.

Full text of the article, “Monitoring of Livestock Grazing Effects on Bureau of Land Management Land,” Rangeland Ecology & Management, Vol. 67, No. 1, 2013, is available.

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About Rangeland Ecology & Management
Rangeland Ecology & Management is a peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Range Management that is published six times a year. The journal provides a forum for the presentation and discussion of research information, concepts, and philosophies pertaining to the function, management, and sustainable use of global rangeland resources. The journal is available online at http://www.srmjournals.org. To learn more about the society, please visit:http://www.rangelands.org/.


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