Supporting outcome-based management on private & public rangelands: training agricultural professionals on monitoring techniques

Progress report for EW18-018

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2018: $72,519.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Idaho
Region: Western
State: Idaho
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Jason Karl
University of Idaho
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Project Information


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.

Project Objectives:

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.


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Educational approach:

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

Idaho Rangeland Monitoring Workshops

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.

Activities in 2020 were significantly disrupted in two ways due to the COVID-19 pandemic. First, when the University suspended in-person operations in spring 2020, we lost the students and interns who were working on developing training materials and finalizing the method comparison analysis of this project. Those activities had resumed by late fall 2020. Second, COVID-related shut downs and travel restrictions greatly reduced our ability to host workshops for this project. In June 2020, we were able to hold one workshop in Murphy, Idaho that was well attended (39 participants) and test out some of the new training materials. Workshop participants reported a significant increase in their uderstanding of and interesting in using the three monitoring techniques presented. 2020 was not a complete loss for the project, however, as many new training modules for LandPKS were developed and work commenced on a redesigned LandPKS website that will make it easier for users (including ranchers) to access training materials and their LandPKS data. For 2021 we will: 1) finalize the methods comparison and perpare a manuscript for submission to Rangelands; 2) refine the training materials for LandPKS and the other methods based on feedback from the 2020 workshop, and 3) host 2 additional workshops with ranchers and rangeland stakeholders in Idaho and a training specific to Extension educators. Indications now are that COVID restrictions will ease this spring and summer, but if not, we will focus on the Extension educators workshop and supporting Extension in promoting and implementing LandPKS, photo monitoring, and utilization measurements with ranchers.

Outcomes and impacts:

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

7 Consultations
3 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 On-farm demonstrations
1 Webinars / talks / presentations
2 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

2 Extension
5 Researchers
2 Nonprofit
14 Agency
30 Farmers/ranchers
2 Others

Learning Outcomes

22 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
5 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
2 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

Project activities have significantly increased the knowledge of and interest in the three monitoring methods presented: LandPKS, Photo monitoring, and height-weight utilization montioring. Training materials from the project have been distributed and continue to be improved. Interest in the project workshops is high and attendance in workshops has increased over the life of the project. Reception to the LandPKS app for outcomes-based management has been positive. 

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. Discussions are underway with the BLM and USFS to include rancher-collected LandPKS data along with Photo Monitoring data in the official record of grazing permits.

3 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
Additional Outcomes:

The following Idaho Rangeland Monitoring Workshops are planned for 2021:

  • Caldwell, ID - April
  • Cambridge, ID - June
  • Rinker Rock Creek Ranch, ID - June
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.