Striking a Balance: Rangeland Evaluation and Monitoring in the 4-Corners Region

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2002: $100,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Matching Federal Funds: $100,000.00
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
Joanna Austin-Manygoats
Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture
John Blueyes
Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil quality/health


    This project began on July 1, 2002, and the deadline for completion was December 31, 2003. However, the recipient was granted its first no-cost extension with expectation that the project would be completed by December 2004. Consequently, a second request for a no-cost extension was granted with a completion date of December 31, 2005.

    In Fiscal Year 2005 there was a change-over concerning the project coordinator. While the project was incomplete based on these discrepancies the final co-cost extension was again granted. The funds were earmarked for the education component of monitoring of rangeland resources on the Navajo Reservation. Navajo Nation Agriculture department would like to summarize the end of WSARE Grant year.

    Significant educational accomplishment on rangeland monitoring include: completion of four mini walkabouts specific to Navajo producers, technical people and interested individuals. The walkabout activities were set-up to look at four items of concern.
    1. Rangeland resources and livestock
    2. Water resources
    3. Wildlife
    4. Ranch Enterprising for Profit

    During the rangeland walkabout events the participants learned to assess the lands used by livestock to determine whether the moisture was effectively utilized by examining the ground cover, amount of litter being broken down, and amount of water runoff. Participants worked together to determine what effective water and mineral uses are and how diversity of the ground cover aids toward good rangeland and water resources. We found out that solar energy also plays a role in the growth of the grass plant —- more grass cover on the ground.

    Wildlife is just as important as the grazing of the livestock because managing wildlife lead right into the ranch enterprises for profit.

    Water resource is a major element that helps determine whether the ranchers will yield a productive and profitable return.

    During the monitoring training session the participants learned how to choose the right monitoring program, measuring against our objectives, and coordinating with agencies, i.e. read soil types, identify local grasses, determine precipitation base on forge production, evaluate pastures between grazing, help a ranch crew to understand rangeland health, and make better decisions for moving livestock across the landscape.

    We’ve had excellent turnout to the training workshop to learn to apply practices, methods, and using the evaluation tool using the brand new “The Land Monitoring Handbook.” Five Handbooks were printed and another three thousand (300) copies are pending publication at Cortez Copy & Print Shop, in Cortez, Colorado.

    Cindy Dvergsten of Whole New Concept, LLC, played a major role as an advisor, trainer, facilitator, and technical field assistance while we performed the walkabouts; teaching the land monitoring method, hands-on practices, and demonstrating real life situations where land monitoring is used and illustrated and proven profitable returns on ranches that applied the schemes.

    Another educational video on land monitoring specifically for community people is currently being integrated into the Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture’s extension education program. The Department’s goal is still to produce and market “Navajo Beef”; the concept is to produce quality beef and sheep to market the product locally and nationally with the label “Navajo Beef/Sheep.” Our technical staff learned a great deal and is teaching the rangeland monitoring concept to Navajo producers to manage ranches that are sound and profitable and sustain as enterprises.

    Project objectives:

    The objectives are generally the same as previous years, and we believed we’ve accomplished the goals and objectives we intended to achieve.

    1. Learn how to evaluate, monitor, and record the health of the rangelands and adjacent woodlands so that we can, in turn, teach others how to do the same.

    Secondary Objective — Show the value of rangeland “walkabouts” as a primary monitoring and evaluation tool at the sites selected by collaborators.

    Secondary Objective — Show the value of keeping a photographic record of our observations.

    2. Create a network of individuals and organizations that transcends the complicated political and philosophical boundaries of the 4 Corners region so that as professionals we can find each other and so that the grassroots folks can find us.

    Optional Secondary Objects — Develop a website on which to place our handbook/range conservation training program and links to our network in Fiscal Year 2007.

    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.