Collaborative Training for Southwest Grassland Restoration under Environmental Uncertainty

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $71,503.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2019
Grant Recipient: University of Arizona
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
George Ruyle
University of Arizona

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: grazing management, pasture renovation, range improvement, rangeland/pasture management
  • Education and Training: networking, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement

    Proposal abstract:

    An overarching goal for vegetation management in Southwestern Rangelands has been to reduce the dominance of woody species,

    primarily mesquite, and enhance grassland components. Grassland systems increase soil moisture and plant vigor, and provide watershed stability, forage habitat, and carbon contributions. Beginning in the mid-20th century, mechanical and chemical methods were used to treat woody species and fire was generally suppressed. More recently, the reintroduction of wildfire through prescribed burns became the preferred method for restoring healthy grasslands. However, due to recent changes in climate conditions, leading to years of diminished winter rains and a lack of fuel, a more varied toolkit of treatments is needed for land managers. Building on case studies of new vegetation management strategies at the landscape level from Arizona and New Mexico, three collaborative and interrelated workshops are planned for Extension and NRCS personnel, non-profits, landowners, and other stakeholders.

    Participants will have opportunities to learn about historic and current trends in climate conditions and woody species management, treatment options, regulatory issues, and identification of conservation action sites. Rangeland Extension and technology specialists at the University of Arizona in collaboration with the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance, NRCS, and the Rangelands Partnership will (1) organize and implement three workshops, (2) document workshops and share stories through video, and (3) implement a social media campaign before, during, and after workshops to engage stakeholders throughout the West, (4) adapt videos and workshop materials for the web, and incorporate into Rangelands as a Highlighted Topic to extend learning opportunities.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project will provide an intensive training opportunity on historic and current trends in climate conditions, brush and woody species control in the Southwest, treatment options, and implementation of grassland restoration projects under current conditions.

    Building on case studies of vegetation management experiences from Arizona and New Mexico, three collaborative and interrelated full-day workshops, coupled with a concentrated outreach and support program, are planned for Extension and NRCS personnel, non-profits, landowners, and other stakeholders.

    This will include:

    Pre-workshops (7/1/17 – 12/15/18):

    Activities –

    (1) Prepare fact sheets for workshop packets and web outreach: Southwestern climate trends data; comparing and contrasting at least three treatment options including prescribed fire, chemical, and mechanical;

    (2) Prepare planning guidelines for conservation action sites selection and grassland restoration projects;

    (3) Collect vegetation management stories from stakeholder groups and select three to be videotaped.

    Workshops: (12/15/17 – 12/15/18): Activity

    (4) Conduct three full-day brush and woody species management workshops. Overall objective: improve the ability of agriculture professionals to conduct educational programs on brush and woody species management and collaborative landscape-level grassland restoration planning, and to provide technical assistance on management/treatment options for landowners and other stakeholders.

    Specific objectives for each workshop include:

    Workshop 1: increase knowledge and understanding of changing environmental conditions and their effects on vegetation management on Southwestern rangelands.

    Workshop 2: expand knowledge of recent and ongoing research and practice, including various treatments, on brush and woody species control in Arizona and New Mexico;

    Workshop 3: improve the ability to compare and contrast different treatments in terms of:

    1. a) efficacy,
    2. b) implementation costs,
    3. c) political and regulatory hurdles,
    4. d) implementation difficulties, and
    5. e) monitoring protocols for Southwestern grasslands.

    UA and AVCA, in collaboration with partners, will organize and participate in workshops. Workshops will be a mix of presentations, small- and large-group discussions, and field trips that will include before and during workshop social media postings to engage wider audiences (Rangelands Partnership and AVCA). Presentations and discussions will be documented through videos, and combined with workshop materials, to form the basis of an extensive Highlighted Topic on brush and woody species control made available through (a website maintained by the Rangelands Partnership).

    Post-workshops: (1/1/19 – 6/30/19): Activities

    (5): Evaluate project outcomes. Questionnaires will be used to gain pre- and post-workshop feedback from participants, with a follow-up questionnaire four months after the final workshop asking participants to comment on learnings and applications, as well as suggestions for future workshops.

    (6): Publish project results throughout the two year timeframe and beyond. This will include documenting presentations, discussions, processes, case studies, and field exercises through videos, learning resources made available through an established web presence, social media postings, and planned newsletter and journal articles.

    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.