• Estimating Effects of Targeted Conservation on Nonfederal Rangelands

      Weltz, Mark; Spaeth, Ken (Society for Range Management, 2012-08-01)
      Estimating the effects of conservation practices on rangelands is extremely challenging, compared with cropland, because rangelands consist of a mosaic of plant species with highly diverse landscapes of mixed land ownership and management objectives. The checkerboard pattern of land ownership on rangelands in the West, a legacy of 19th century government homestead and railway construction policies, makes conducting assessments and estimating effects of conservation at landscape or watershed scale a challenging endeavor. This is complicated by the interaction of climate, topography, plants, soil parent material, and land management that interact to yield a mosaic of plant communities over time. Rangeland communities are further influenced by episodic disturbances, such as insect outbreaks, fire, drought, and flood. The most-developed quantitative indicators of conservation effects currently on rangelands are 1) modeled soil erosion, and 2) the number and types of invasive plant species. These indicators can be used to infer impacts on water availability and quality, wildlife habitat quality or suitability for target wildlife species, forage availability for domestic livestock and/or wildlife, and vulnerability to wildfire, which will directly influence sustainability of the plant community.