Whether you are managing a small acreage on private land, running a game ranch for hunting and recreation, or are a large-scale livestock producer using private, state, and federal lands, having the tools to manage your range resources as well as being prepared for natural disasters is essential.
Knowing the amount forage available for either livestock production or wildlife habitat is one of the most important pieces of information for any range manager. While there are numerous range monitoring resources and methods, knowing which method is right for your operation could help save you time and money. Establishing a long-term monitoring program will help identify trends in the vegetative community while short-term monitoring is helpful to measure fluctuations of forage production from year-to-year.
No matter how rigorous your monitoring plan is at addressing your management objectives, you will still be subject to varying drought conditions-drought is an inevitable part to living in the western United States. Although a drought may last for only a short duration, it could have lasting impacts for several years thereafter. Successful drought management is an ongoing practice that considers implications for multiple years afterwards. Although range managers are forced to operate under the uncertainty of drought timing and severity, these drought resources and information will help mitigate some of the losses due to drought and help make decisions during dry times.
In addition to monitoring and drought planning, proper range management also addresses issues associated with weeds. A weed is defined as a plant that interferes with the management objective at a given site. A weed can have negative effects on other plants or animal species that occur naturally in a given plant community. These negative impacts could potentially affect the productivity of your operation. Producers should be aware of the noxious weeds of Wyoming, as well as venues to control weeds in their pastures and allotments.
Rangelands provide a variety of ecosystem services, such as wildlife habitat. Addressing issues such as drought and invasive weeds not only ensures quality forage for livestock, but also provides habitat to maintain healthy wildlife populations. Wyoming residents and visitors value wildlife for aesthetic and recreation values. Being aware of wildlife needs can help land managers increase their profitability by taking advantage of multiple use recreation activities and the benefits of having healthy ecosystems. For people enjoying the roads and hiking trails, base knowledge about wildlife habitat, needs, and behavior will prove helpful.
Conditions resulting from prolonged drought and increased fuel loads have led to an increase in the number of acres burned and fire severity in recent years. Many of the ecosystems in Wyoming were created under fire disturbance regimes, but recent changes to fuel characteristics as well as human encroachment have caused changes to the way fires historically burned. These changes cause negative impacts to humans and the environment. Land managers have many wildfire resources that can reduce the probability of wildfires and precautions to take in the post-fire aftermath.
As with anything, being aware of the conditions you are working in will help set attainable, clear management goals. A baseline description of these conditions can be found in the ecoregion maps provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Ecoregions are determined by defining areas that are similar in environmental characteristics such as soils and water availability. Ecoregions are also characterized by the types of land uses that are common in the area, agricultural crops that can be grown, and wildlife species. Explore the ecoregions of Wyoming for more information.