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Techniques for Assessing the Environmental Outcomes of Conservation Practices Applied to Rangeland Watersheds
Weltz, M. A., L. Jolley, D. C. Goodrich, K. G. Boykin, M. A. Nearing, J. J. Stone, P. D. Guertin, M. Hernandez, K. Speath, F. Pierson, C. Morris, AND W. G. KEPNER. Techniques for Assessing the Environmental Outcomes of Conservation Practices Applied to Rangeland Watersheds. JOURNAL OF SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION. Soil and Water Conservation Society, 66(5):154-162, (2012).
Grazing lands are the most dominant land cover type in the United States, with approximately 311.7 Mha being defined as rangelands (Mitchell 2000). Approximately 53% (166.2 Mha) of the nation’s rangelands (USDA 2009) are owned and managed by the private sector, while approximately 43% are managed by the federal government (USDA NRCS 2011a). The remaining rangelands are owned and managed by tribal, state, and local governments. Information on the type, extent, and spatial location of land degradation on rangelands is needed to inform policy and management decisions on rangelands; however, there is no systematic or coordinated national dataset on status or condition of rangelands for the United States to make informed policy decisions (NRC 1994; Herrick et al. 2010). Rangelands in the west are sparsely populated, and assessments of rangeland conditions have historically not been uniformly conducted across all land ownership classes in any systematic monitoring program. Therefore, it is difficult to assess the current health of rangelands and which areas could benefit from targeted conservation as USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has recently done for cropland within the Upper Mississippi River Basin (USDA NRCS 2010) and the Chesapeake Bay (USDA NRCS 2011b) through the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP).
Through the Grazing Land CEAP project, USDA intends to first synthesize what we know about the impact on the hydrologic cycle from the application of conservationpractices on grazing lands and fill knowledge gaps about the impact of grazing land practices on watershed health and impacts on ecosystem services at the landscape scale. Second, CEAP will develop approaches, methodologies, and databases to produce scientifically credible estimates of environmental benefits/impacts of conservation. Planning and assessment in land and water resource management are evolving from simple, local-scale problems toward complex, spatially explicit regional and national ones. Such problems have to be addressed with distributed models that can compute environmental benefits at different spatial and temporal scales and look at net cumulative impacts of management over a range of time scales to avoid unintended consequences. The extensive data requirements and the difficult task of building input parameter files, however, have long represented an obstacle to the timely and cost-effective use of such complex models by resource managers for conducting large scale assessments.
URLs/Downloads:KEPNER 11-082 JOURNAL ARTICLE KEPNER PAPER TECHNIQUES APPLIED TO RANGELAND WATERSHEDS.PDF (PDF,NA pp, 3503 KB, about PDF)
Record Details:Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL EXPOSURE RESEARCH LAB
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES DIVISION
LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY BRANCH