Rangelands are described as lands on which the indigenous vegetation is predominately grasses, grass-like plants, forbs, and possibly shrubs or dispersed trees. Existing plant communities can include both native and introduced plants. Disturbed lands that have been revegetated naturally or artificially are included. Management of rangelands occurs primarily through ecological processes, rather than agronomic applications. Grazing, by both domestic livestock and wildlife, is the most common ecological management process, with fire and weather extremes also being significant ecological factors. Rangelands include grasslands, savannas, shrublands, most deserts, tundra, alpine communities, marshes and meadows.
Rangelands comprise about 30% of the entire land cover of the United States, totaling about 770 million acres. About 2/3 of all U.S. rangelands are privately owned. In the contiguous 48 states, privately owned rangelands make up about 409 million acres, 27% of the total land area, and form the largest single land cover/use type.
Rangelands provide a diversity of ecosystems and also provide a diverse and significant production of economic benefits and ecosystem goods and services. Livestock production along with sustainable wildlife populations provide for the major direct economic benefits, but also tourism, recreational uses, minerals/energy production, renewable energy, and other natural resource uses can be very significant. Vital ecosystem contributions include clean water, clean air, fish/wildlife habitat, as well as intangible considerations such as historical, cultural, aesthetic and spiritual values.
The rangeland health concept describes the ecological status of rangelands. Find out more....
The Rangeland NRI Resource Assessment is a statistically based effort to gauge natural resource status, conditions, and trends on the Nation's non-federal rangelands. Find out more....