In Colorado, county-based Extension agents are a vital source of information for their communities. However, these agents are counted on to cover a growing range of topics with reduced resources. In a series of needs assessments and listening sessions conducted since 2014, Colorado ranchers and other land managers have identified range management education as a fundamental need. Unfortunately, because many Extension agents do not have training in the principles of range management, this need goes unaddressed in large portions of the state. At best, questions are passed on to regional Extension Specialists, who do not have the time or resources to cover the range management education needs of the entire state. At worst, landowners are forced to make management decisions without access to accurate, science-based information. In either scenario, a crucial opportunity to improve management is lost, and Extension suffers a decline in relevance in rural areas of Colorado. With this project, we will address the identified needs of land managers by providing range management education to Extension agents across the state of Colorado. Regardless of their background or education, all participating agents will obtain the tools to effectively address range management needs within their community. We will achieve this by reviving the Colorado Range School, a highly successful range management education program that has been dormant for a decade. The curriculum will consist of a series of topical webinars, culminating in a 1.5-day workshop/field day in four regions of the state. With a target of 60 Extension agents completing the program, we expect to reach 25% of all agents in the state, including the majority working on natural resource issues in rural areas. Ultimately, this project will serve as a springboard for improved range management outreach and extension and a revived Range School for the broader public.
Project objectives from proposal:
Objective 1: Develop and finalize the Range School curriculum by July 1, 2021. Activities: Integrate input from existing needs assessments, local Extension agents, producer-advisors, and successful programs in other states.
Objective 2: Successfully enroll 60 agents in the program by January 1, 2022. Activities: Create and distribute a 3-minute promotional video, promote program via Extension administration and regular regional and statewide meetings.
Objective 3: Increase range management knowledge by delivering five 1-2 hour topical webinars at least three times each by May 1, 2022. Activities: Design materials, schedule with enrollees, conduct webinars, record webinars.
Objective 4: Increase range management knowledge, including field-based skills, by delivering four workshops/field days by November 1, 2022. Activities: Work with local offices to schedule and organize. Conduct workshops and field days.
Objective 5: Evaluate project outcomes to improve Range School by March 1, 2023. Activities: Analyze quiz results to analyze topic choice and presentation. Distribute and analyze post-program evaluation. Integrate findings into curriculum and planning.
Objective 6: Ensure continuity of network and learning community by hosting regular Q&A sessions with statewide/regional range staff, including three Q&A events by April 30, 2023. Activities: Solicit questions for Q&A beforehand. Advertise Q&A. Host Q&A online Q&A.