Livestock grazing is an important land use throughout the western US, and ranchers need to
make management decisions quickly in response to current conditions. The University of Idaho’s
Rangeland Center has identified land use policies limiting ranchers’ flexibility to account for
annual variations in forage, water, disturbance, and market conditions as a challenge to
sustainably managing Idaho’s rangelands. This has led to an effort by the Center to develop an
“outcome-based management” paradigm that would give ranchers more flexibility to make
management decisions regarding grazing on private and leased public lands. However, the
success of such adaptive management will hinge on quickly and accurately assessing condition
of rangelands and coordinating monitoring activities between ranchers and public land managers.
Outcome-based management will require a new paradigm for monitoring rangelands that adds
easy-to-implement quantitative methods to existing monitoring, leverages the ability to combine
monitoring data from different sources, and emphasizes cooperative monitoring between
ranchers and public agencies. Achieving this in Idaho will require developing significant training
and support materials for ranchers and rangeland professionals. This project’s objectives are: 1)
refactor existing training materials for three monitoring techniques (photo monitoring, LandPKS,
BLM quantitative monitoring) into consistent, modular formats (online and print) emphasizing
understanding and interpreting monitoring indicators and method implementation; 2)
demonstrate the compatibility of the rapid LandPKS method with quantitative methods used by
BLM, and illustrate how all three methods can be used together for monitoring grazing effects in
outcome-based management; 3) develop training modules for using the three methods together
for management decision making; and 4) host workshops for ranchers and rangeland
professionals on the suite of monitoring tools and how they can be used together. The project
goal is to increase ranchers’ awareness and use of compatible rangeland monitoring programs in
Idaho and increase the success of outcome-based rangeland management.
The goal of this project is to provide training on and demonstration of rangeland monitoring
methods that can be used in outcome-based management in Idaho. This project focuses on
developing consistent training materials in three monitoring techniques (photo monitoring,
LandPKS, BLM quantitative monitoring) and illustrating how those techniques can be used
together by ranchers and public land managers to support sustainable grazing. Specific project
objectives and timelines are:
• Refactor existing training materials for photo points, LandPKS, and BLM quantitative
monitoring into consistent, modular formats (online and in print) with a tiered structure
that emphasizes: 1) understanding the indicators and how to interpret the data, 2)
understanding how the techniques work, and 3) learning how to implement the
techniques. Timeline: June 2018 – December 2018.
• Demonstrate the compatibility of the LandPKS methods with a set of quantitative
methods used by BLM, and illustrate how data from all three methods (photo monitoring,
LandPKS, and quantitative indicators) can be used together for monitoring grazing
effects for outcome-based management. Timeline: December 2018-May 2020.
• Develop training modules for how to use the three different sources of monitoring data
together for management decision making. Timeline: December 2018-May 2020.
• Develop and host workshops (two per year in 2019 and 2020) for NRCS Specialists and
Extension Educators, ranchers, and agency land managers on the suite of monitoring
tools and how they can be used together. Timeline: May 2019-May 2020.
The educational approach of this project is one of hands-on training and demonstration in monitoring techniques using the LandPKS system. Specific pedagogies include presentations and discussions of land potential and how it governs the potential of land to support different vegetation communities and ecosystem services, live demonstrations of the LandPKS app with instructors in the field, practice and coaching for participants implementing the LandPKS app, and follow-up reviews and check-ins on implementation.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
The goal of the Idaho Rangeland Montioring Workshops is to provide ranchers and state rangeland management professionals with training in techniques for collecting and interpreting monitoring data to support grazing operations. In particular, these workshops focus on implementation of the LandPKS monitoring app and how it can be used with photo monitoring and in coordination with quantitative data collection by land management agencies.
The first Idaho Rangeland Montioring Workshop was held on July 11-12, 2018 at the University of Idaho’s Rinker Rock Creek Ranch near Hailey, Idaho. The workshop had 25 participants including private producers, grazingland consultants, Extension specialists, and representatives from Idaho State Department of Agriculture. The workshop for 2018 focused on 3 techniques that could be used in outcomes-based management: photo-monitoring, utilization monitoring using a height/weight method, and the LandPKS system. Participants received training in the LandPKS method and then were able to collect some data at test locations. On the second day of the workshop, participants were introduced to the LandPKS online data portal as a location for viewing and downloading their data, and demonstrations were given on how to use the data portal to analyze and interpret the LandPKS data.
Activities in 2019 included collecting data to demonstrate compatibility of the LandPKS protocol to the quantitative monitoring data collected by land management agencies Idaho ranchers work with. LandPKS and quantitative monitoring data (following the BLM AIM and NRCS NRI protocols) were collected on 42 plots in southern Idaho. Analysis comparing the LandPKS indicators to the quantitative data indicators is ongoing. We also contributed to the development of new LandPKS modules for monitoring grazing utilization (a key short-term indicator ranchers use to determine if they are meeting their grazing objectives) and evaluating wildlife habitat. Also in 2019, development of new training materials commenced. These training materials will be used at the 2020 Idaho Rangeland Monitoring Workshops. The 2019 Monitoring Workshop was cancelled due to a health emergency for one of the instructors. For 2020, training materials will be finalized and a total of 5 Monitoring Workshops are scheduled at different locations in southern Idaho.
Participants in the 2018 workshop left with a working knowledge of the LandPKS mobile app and an understanding of how they could use it in management. The primary outcome of this workshop, though, was an increased awareness of the LandPKS app. As trainers, a secondary outcome was a better understanding of how to develop and guide trainings to help participants learn the app and see its potential uses in their operations. As per feedback from participants, subsequent workshops and trainings will address how to share data with land-management agencies and other users, and how datasets from different sources can be used together (e.g., LandPKS data used with data collected by BLM, or with photo-monitoring).
The LandPKS application and its calculated indicators will not be adopted in Idaho if the data are not compatibile with, and accepted by, the land management agencies that administer the grazing leases Idaho ranchers depend upon. One of the primary objectives of this project is to demonstrate that compatibility. The results of the ongoing comparison of techniques will help ranchers adopt the LankPKS tool and will facilitate the BLM in accepting and using rancher-collected monitoring data for grazing permit evaluation and renewal. The new LandPKS training materials and modules will also facilitate adoption and use of the LandPKS protocols and tools.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Outcomes of project activities have been limited thus far. Due to turnover in project staff, we were able to implement only one training in 2018, and limited work was completed on curriculum and training material development. Reception to the LandPKS app for outcomes-based management was positive, however. A new graduate student started on the project this January and planning is underway for 2019 activities which will include: 1) devleopment of training materials, 2) demonstrations, and 3) trainings. Activities for this project in 2018 resulted in a new project partnership with the BLM to implement the LandPKS system with the private operator on a BLM allotment near Burley Idaho as part of the BLM’s Idaho outcomes-based grazing pilot project.
Interest in the LandPKS app and its use for rangeland monitoring has continued to increase in Idaho. This project has resulted in the formation of a group of professionals from the Idaho Department of Agriculture, Idaho Extension, and the project PIs to develop and implement improved training for rangeland monitoring aimed at ranchers and range management professionals. In 2019, the newly-formed Idaho Rangeland Conservation Partnership signed on to help organize, promote, and sponsor the Idaho Rangeland Monitoring Workshops for 2020. The ongoing comparison of LandPKS to other montioring protocols will help strengthen our case for ranchers to adopt LandPKS.
The following Idaho Rangeland Monitoring Workshops have been scheduled for 2020:
- Cambridge, ID – April 7th
- Burley, ID – April 30th
- Soda Springs, ID – May 1st
- Mackay ID, – June 5th
- Murphy, ID – June 9th