Wyoming Rangeland Health Assessment Program – A Decade+ of Valuable Data
Data drives decisions. Like most industries, the data you collect helps make the best and most informed decisions possible for the future of the operation. Agriculture is no different. When livestock producers across Wyoming are dealing with grazing on state and federal lands, there can be a lot of factors and groups at play. In order to help with this issue, the Rangeland Health Assessment Program (RHAP) was developed.
RHAP has been in place for more than a decade and continues to provide funding for the collection of valuable rangeland health data to livestock producers and their partners – federal land management agencies. The program was created to assist private landowners, permittees and federal and state land managers in collecting credible data for the assessment of Wyoming’s rangelands. These efforts focus on joint cooperative monitoring between landowners, permittees and federal and state land management agencies, with the common goal to monitor, plan and manage rangelands cooperatively.
The benefits RHAP brings to the state and to livestock producers is that the focus is placed on the resource, looking at the health of the rangeland or the allotment. By providing funding, livestock producers can develop joint cooperative monitoring plans with the federal and state land managers. Joint cooperative monitoring will assess the health of the rangelands and provide much needed data. This data will assist land managers in cooperation with livestock producers the ability to develop appropriate management direction for their livestock grazing operation and for rangeland resources. This data can also be used to assist in defending livestock grazing management decisions on livestock grazing permit/lease renewals on federal and state lands.
In addition, RHAP allows for the livestock operator and the land management agencies the ability to work together for a common goal of achieving and maintaining rangeland health. By engaging in joint cooperative monitoring the livestock operator works in unison with the land management agency to identify where to monitor, identify what resources are important and assist in collecting the data. This monitoring data is assured to be included in their files and assures that the data will be accepted as valid data for any permit/lease renewal process.
In the short term, the goal of RHAP is to sustain viable levels of federal land grazing by providing credible data to assist federal land agencies in completing permitting and NEPA analysis, and to enable agencies and permittees to defend against challenges to grazing permit renewals and management plans. Along with this, the long-term goal of this program is to develop a monitoring plan to assess trends in rangeland health and utilize the data to make sound management decision into the future.
To date, RHAP has funded approximately 70 projects on over 6-million acres of federal and state lands. To help showcase the data that has been collected so far through these projects, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture developed a Story Map of the program that gives a visual of the various projects throughout the state. The Story Map is posted on the Department Webpage showing the project locations and outcomes of the program. To see the Story Map and more information about RHAP, visit http://agriculture.wy.gov/divisions/nrp/rangeland-health
–Wyoming Department of Agriculture
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