Rangeland Monitoring

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

Rangelands are managed for a number of uses that vary from livestock production to recreation. Whether the operation goals are focused on wildlife or livestock, proper range management is part of the equation. An old adage says you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Range monitoring is an important tool for anyone who uses rangelands as a resource because it provides quantifiable data that can help answer important questions, measure the impacts of management practices, and set attainable goals. There are numerous monitoring techniques available that demand different levels of experience, time commitments, and tools. The appropriate method or methods selected for monitoring depend on the available resources to the operation and the management needs. When grazing or managing state and federal lands, it may be beneficial for individual land owners to coordinate their efforts and monitoring plans with those of agency personnel. The links below provide several references for some of the more common monitoring techniques used today.

The monitoring process

Before getting started developing a monitoring plan, think about the type of data needed for the operation. There are two things that should be considered when developing a monitoring plan: the goals of the operation and the resources available. Goals are what define the success of the operation, so should be the driving force behind choosing the type of assessment or assessments. Resources define the limitations to the operation. Make sure that monitoring techniques measure these limitations. The final step in monitoring is to analyze the data. What does the data say? Are management adjustments necessary? Use the results to help set new goals, management criteria, and priorities for the following year.

For complete assessment, a combination of short-term and long-term data will be necessary. Long-term monitoring will help assess the condition and trend of rangelands, and it will provide valuable information to determine impacts of management strategies and changing weather conditions. Short-term monitoring consists of data such as grazing use, precipitation, and management prescriptions on a year-to-year basis. Coupling short-term and long-term monitoring will result in information that will help maintain sustainable management on an operation.