Building Knowledge of Sustainable Rangeland Management Using Information Technology
Rangelands are the grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, and deserts that dominate western North America. Natural resource and agricultural advisors are challenged to provide managers, users, and admirers of rangelands with the information and tools necessary to restore and maintain rangeland ecosystems. The Western Rangelands Partnership is a unique association among state rangeland Extension specialists and university library professionals in 19 western states. Our goal is to deliver quality information, resources, and tools to improve management and ensure sustainability of western rangelands. Our project with Western SARE has allowed us to create an internet database of rangeland information at: http://rangelandswest.org/
The Western Rangelands Partnership engaged more than 40 rangeland professionals and information specialists to accomplish our goal of creating easily accessible and reliable information for sustainable rangeland management. Our project is aimed at natural resource advisors and professionals to: (1) expand their understanding of sustainable rangeland management approaches; (2) improve their information technology skills; and (3) create reliable sustainable rangeland management information and make it readily accessible through the RangelandsWest Web gateway.
In previous years of this project we conducted a workshop to improve web-skills of participants and assess the demands, resources, and time available to natural resource and agricultural advisors to access internet-based information. We determined that these advisors generally have limited but sufficient skill to access information on the internet and that readily available information would facilitate their work if it is reliable and of high quality.
During our workshop, survey, and discussions we have determined that there is limited general knowledge about concepts and tools to support sustainable rangeland management. We have also determined that there is no single reliable internet site to seek information on rangelands.
In 2006, we focused on redesigning our current website to make it easier to find information for users and easier to update information for the Western Rangeland Partners who contribute to the site. It is vitally important to create an internet site that can be readily accessed by both users and contributes. Our interactions with users through workshops and surveys has allowed us to effectively refocus our efforts and create a more useable and reliable information portal.
Our work and accomplishments in 2006 focused on a complete redesign of our existing internet site. This required us to resign the way we organized topics related to rangeland science and management. Our new topic hierarchy begins with the following major headlines:
* Rangelands and How They Work
* Plants and Animals
* Soils and Water
* Climate, Drought, and Fire
* Grazing, Recreation, Wildlife and Other Uses
* Rangeland Management and Restoration
* Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment
* Rural Communities and Ranch Economics
* Planning and Collaboration
* Training, Teaching, Education and Careers
Within each of these major topic headings, users can browse through cascading subject headings to find articles and resource relevant to their specific need. The new internet framework allows for advanced searching so users can locate and relocate valuable information.
Our project is conducted in partnership with the Agriculture Network Information Center (http://www.agnic.org/). This partnership increases user access to information and helps us maintain a database of information that meets modern library and information standards.
We have also forged and important distinction as a Western Coordinating Committee through the Cooperative Extension Service. Our committee is entitled “Rangelands West Partnership” WERA1008. Our status as a coordinating committee will allow several members to gain resources for travel and other activities through their state Extension Service and will provide a level of stability to ensure that the website will continue after our SARE project has terminated.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Each year the Western Rangeland Partners join in Tucson, AZ in March to discuss new innovations in sustainable rangeland management and ways to become the source on the internet for rangeland science and management information. At these meetings we work to develop, maintain, and continually improve a regional Rangelands West internet web site and state sites linked to this regional site. We also discuss ways to ensure that information provided through the Rangelands West web sites provides quality information based on the best available science.
On a regular basis, the rangeland professionals that are part of the Western Rangeland Partnership join in a specified discussion session at the yearly International Meeting of the Society for Rangeland Management.
The website home for this project