Building Knowledge of Sustainable Rangeland Management Using Information Technology - Northern Great Plains Partnership

Final Report for ENC04-077

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2004: $16,719.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Roger Gates
SDSU Extension
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Project Information

Abstract:

Range Extension Specialists and librarians participating in the NCR-SARE PDP project met annually with their counterparts from the Western Region in Tucson in spring 2005 and 2006. This annual meeting has continued to coordinate this multi-regional project. A sustainable organizational structure for RangelandsWest has resulted in the establishment of a multi-state Research Project, WERA1008, "Rangelands West Partnership". Extension educators from SD (and other states) that attended the Information Outreach workshop in 2005 developed and distributed specialized resource tools for the region. Educators continue to identify RangelandsWest as an internet source for comprehensive and reliable information relating to most aspects of rangeland resources and management.

Project Objectives:

1. Provide reliable and accessible information about sustainable rangeland management by building on the foundation set by the Western Rangelands Partnership.

2. Train state range Extension specialists, county-based extension personnel and federal land management advisors in sustainable rangeland management practices and the effective use of information technologies to better serve the ecological and economic needs of their constituencies.

3. Work with Western Rangelands Partnership to build a comprehensive Web gateway on rangeland management as part of the Agriculture Network Information Center (AgNIC) initiative.

4. Expand understanding of sustainable rangeland management approaches within the North Central Region.

5. Improve information technology skills of range Extension specialists, county-based extension personnel, and federal land management advisors.

6. Create a RangelandsWest Web site for each of the participating NCR states (SD, ND, KS, NE) with reliable sustainable rangeland management information and make it readily accessible through the RangelandsWest Web gateway.

7. Develop a content module pertaining to sustainable rangelands practices on each NCR state’s RangelandsWest Web site.

8. Build an overarching structure for sustainable rangelands content, with introductory text and navigational pages leading to the content developed by each state.

9. Enter metadata into the RangelandsWest Web site database, making it accessible to users of the national AgNIC site via a web services connection.

Introduction:

The Western Rangeland Partners is a unique collaboration among rangeland professionals, primarily state Rangeland Extension Specialists, and librarians and other information specialists. This collaboration had led to the development of the “Rangeland West” website which has become a model effort in providing current, reliable, science-based information in an agricultural discipline. It is arguably the best developed site among those in the comprising the AgNIC ) Agricultural Network Information Center) effort.

In March 2004, the West Region SARE program announced funding to support a Professional Development Program proposal that will support continuing collaboration and development of Rangelands West, but also incorporated training of Extension Specialists and county-based advisors. Web site development, for both the regional site and state pages included an intentional effort to highlight sustainable rangeland management information. The completed project extended the effort of the 13 Western states to the 4 Northern Great Plains states of Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota through support from the North Central Region SARE PDP program. Three workshops were conducted. The first workshop focused on training rangeland Extension specialists in “Web-Skills” to design viable Web sites and post information relevant to sustainable rangeland management. The second workshop focused on “Information-Outreach” targeted at county-based Extension advisors, USDA personnel, and rangeland practitioners, to improve participant’s knowledge of sustainable rangeland management practices and improving skills in using online resources to locate quality information.

A summary workshop of all Western Rangeland Partners involved:
1) revising Web modules related to sustainable rangeland management
2) incorporating ideas and suggestions from the participants of the information-outreach workshop
3) developing a strategy for promoting the Rangelands West website, connecting to appropriate Web sites and sustainable rangeland management efforts.

States initially without state Rangeland websites completed creating one. Participating states developed a content module pertaining to sustainable rangeland practices, and placed it on their state’s Rangeland West website. The project website created an overarching structure for sustainable rangelands content, with introductory text and navigational pages leading to the content developed by each state.

Finally, metadata for new content was entered into the Rangelands West website database, making it conveniently accessible to users. Rangeland specialists, advisors, and practitioners who participated in the project gained skills necessary to access, evaluate, and create web-based information.

Cooperators

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Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

The web-skills workshop improved participant's general understanding of how to effectively package content (both original and references to already-existing materials) for websites (i.e. preparing original content that is intended to be read online, preparing content that is intended to be downloaded and read off line and preparing useful annotations for linked sites).

Participants in the information-outreach workshop completed their training with greater awareness of the concerts and principles of sustainable rangeland management. They also became familiar with the content of the Rangelands West web site and other reliable Web sources of information about rangeland ecology and management. Participants demonstrated understanding of how to search for and evaluate web information to answer questions from their constituents, and were more able to create a simple web page to post relevant information on the web. Interactions and evaluations during this workshop will informed the Western Rangeland Partners about the current value of the Rangelands West web site and additional resources necessary to meet the needs of information end-users. As a result the design and organization of the existing Rangelands West web site was substantially modified to improve and facilitate user access to desired information.

By the end of the project NGP members of the Western Rangeland Partners created and enhanced their state web sites and created a module on sustainable rangeland management.

Project leaders will added necessary content and wove state modules into a comprehensive searchable web site of information on sustainable rangeland management. This information will includes, for example, resources on grazing practices, weed control, vegetation manipulation, water quality management, prescribed fire, and economic enterprise assessment. Information on the web site includes:
1) published research related to the ecological, economic, and social sustainability of rangeland resources and uses,
2) outgoing examples of viable and sustainable rangeland practices (case studies, and
3) management guidelines, practices, and programs to accomplish sustainable uses.

Outreach and Publications

www.RangelandsWest.org provides internet access to current and reliable information, nearly all of it produced at western land grant universities.

Outcomes and impacts:

• Joint meeting between the Extension Specialists and librarians from SD, ND, NE, and KS and the participants in the RangelandsWest project from the WR-SARE was held in Tucson in spring 2006.

• NCR-SARE and WR-SARE participants established an on-going organizational structure for RangelandsWest.

• Multistate Research Project, WERA1008, "Rangelands West Partnership" was authorized.

• NCR-SARE and WR-SARE participants in the Tucson meeting finalized the organizational “tree” structure of the national website.

• Continued effort to populate state websites with resources and links.

• Extension Educators that attended the Information Outreach workshop in fall 2005 developed and distributed specialized resource tools for the region. These include a DVD containing resources addressing drought response, which has been distributed very widely in the region. Another example is a pasture allocation tool that was developed through the use of the literature available on the RangelandsWest website.

Access to reliable information on sustainable rangeland management continues to increase through the RangelandsWest website. It is available for specialists, educators, ag advisors, farmers, ranchers, and land managers throughout the United States. Of particular importance is the regionally-appropriate information that is included due to the efforts of the specialists and librarians in each participating state. County-based agricultural advisors continue to become more adept at accessing this information, increasing in their knowledge of sustainable rangeland management principles, and utilizing it for the benefit of their clientèle. The establishment of WERA1008 is particularly important in that it contributes to ongoing efforts to improve web-based access to reliable, sustainable rangeland management information.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

RangelandsWest website continues to grow as additional and current information is linked through the collaboration and extension specialists in each of the participating states. Participation in the NCR-SARE funded PDP project facilitated participation by North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

The structure of the RangelandsWest web site was renovated during the life of this project to improve site logic and accessibility to information.

County educators in each state have been alerted to the information available on RangelandsWest and each of the four participating states has a web site which is linked to the main RangelandsWest web site. A Western Regional Research Project has been established which provides a mechanism for continuation of the web site and multi-state participation.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

The Rangelands West website and the sustainable organization developed through a Western Regional Project to maintain the web site, provides ready access to a web resource with high quality information about rangeland ecology and management created by Extension specialists at Western Land Grant Universities, accessible to anyone in the world who seeks rangeland information on the web.

Future Recommendations

It may be appropriate in the future to provide additional training to extension educators, and other natural resource educators and professionals to expose them to RangelandsWest. Providing the skills for web page development may now reside in most universities and training should be available there.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.