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Grazing Lands National Assessment

CEAP Grazing Lands Story Map

Summarizes the highlights of CEAP-Grazing Lands since its inception

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?

Map showing Acres of Non-Federal Grazing Land, 2017

“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.


Chart showing grazing lands

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.



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 Sustainable Rangeland Roundtable focuses on identification of social, ecological, and economic indicators of rangeland sustainability.

USDA Agricultural Research Service National Program: Water Availability and Watershed Management


Loretta J. Metz