Grazing Lands National Assessment
The Grazing Lands component of the CEAP National Assessment (CEAP-Grazing Lands) will quantify the environmental effects of conservation practices used on pastureland and rangeland.
What is Grazing Land?
“Grazing land” is a collective term used by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for rangeland, pastureland, grazed forestland, native and naturalized pasture, hayland, and grazed cropland. Although grazing is generally a predominant use on grazing lands, the term is also applied independently of any actual use for grazing. Grazing land is also described as land used primarily for production of forage plants maintained or manipulated primarily through grazing management. It includes all lands having plants harvestable by grazing without reference to land tenure, other land uses, management, or treatment practices. (USDA NRCS National Range and Pasture Handbook 2006). There are 584 million acres of grazing lands in the U.S. (USDA-NRCS National Resources Inventory). The ecology and use of rangelands in the West are intertwined for non-federal and federal lands when it comes to wildlife habitat, grazing operations, water quality, and water quantity issues. Management at many levels transcends ownership boundaries.
In 2004, a group of rangeland and pastureland scientists and conservation experts provided early advice to the CEAP-Grazing Lands effort. Their guidance included the overall objectives, data availability, USDA-Agriculture Research Service (ARS) research, and a possible analytical framework.
Based on the input of these experts, CEAP-Grazing Lands will comprise several complementary facets to quantify environmental effects. CEAP-Grazing Lands will begin with a comprehensive literature review of what is currently known about the effects of the dominant conservation practices on pastureland and rangeland. It will be informed by watershed studies which contain rangeland, pastureland, grazeable forest, and cropland. This national assessment will also use data collected for the National Resources Inventory (NRI) Rangeland Field Study to populate the WEPP/SPUR (Water Erosion Prediction Project/Simulation, Production, and Utilization of Rangeland) model. Because of the very diverse ecosystems represented by grazing lands, a broad regional approach will be considered to set up sideboards for future studies.
Pastureland Conservation Effects Assessment Project: Status and Expected Outcomes, Sanderson et al., Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, September-October 2011 (PDF; 1.9 MB)
National Resources Inventory Rangeland Resource Assessment released, October 2010
In 2006, the Water Quality Information Center at USDA’s National Agricultural Library initiated a grazing lands bibliography. The bibliography, with more than 1200 citations and 500 pages, was published at the end of 2006. The bibliography includes literature from 1980 to the present, on most of the continents where grazing lands occur.
A comprehensive literature review and synthesis was initiated in 2006. Both reviews have been published: the literature review for rangeland in October 2011; and the literature review for pastureland and hayland in December 2012. The syntheses of the literature will determine what is known and not known about the environmental benefits of applying conservation practices to grazing lands.
USDA has funded a research project with Colorado State University Department of Forest, Rangeland, and Watershed Stewardship to determine how criteria and indicators developed by the Sustainable Rangeland Roundtable (SSR) could be used in conjunction with the NRI Rangeland Field Study data (collected during 2003-2005) to estimate the effects of conservation practices on grazing lands. The project was completed in early 2008.
Sustainable Rangeland Roundtable Core Indicators, August 2006 (PDF; 0.5 MB)
Responses of Plant Communities to Grazing in the Southwestern United States, U.S. Forest Service, April 2006 (PDF; 1.8 MB)
Environmental Effects of Conservation Practices on Grazing Lands, September 2006.
This bibliography, developed by the Water Quality Information Center at the National Agricultural Library, is a guide to recent scientific literature covering environmental effects of conservation practices on grazing lands. This information is useful in designing both policies and on-the-land conservation systems that foster practical and environmentally sound grazing practices.
The 2011 RCA Appraisal and the National Resources Inventory Rangeland Resource Assessment also include significant findings from CEAP investigations.
CEAP-Grazing lands will involve cooperation and coordination with multiple entities.
The American Forage and Grassland Council will be consulted on pastureland effects in the central and eastern states.
The Rangelands West web site is a valuable portal into the wealth of information available on rangelands through lands grant universities and others.
The Society for Range Management will be involved in the literature synthesis of the effects of conservation practices on grazing lands.
State of the Nation's Ecosystems by The Heinz Center is an important effort to develop indicators for ecological values of what they call grasslands and shrublands.
The Sustainable Rangeland Roundtable focuses on identification of social, ecological, and economic indicators of rangeland sustainability.
USDA Agricultural Research Service National Program: Rangeland, Pasture, and Forages
USDA Agricultural Research Service National Program: Water Resource Management
Loretta J. Metz