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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Assessing the benefits of grazing land conservation practices

Authors
item Weltz, Mark
item Jolley, Leonard - NRCS
item Nearing, Mark
item Stone, Jeffry
item Goodrich, David
item Pierson, Frederick
item Speath, Ken - NRCS
item Kiniry, James
item Arnold, Jeffrey
item Bubenheim, David - NASA
item Hernandez, Mariano - UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
item Wei, Haiyan - UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 23, 2008
Publication Date: November 15, 2008
Citation: Weltz, M.A., Jolley, L., Nearing, M.A., Stone, J.J., Goodrich, D.C., Pierson Jr, F.B., Speath, K., Kiniry, J.R., Arnold, J.G., Bubenheim, D., Hernandez, M., Wei, H. 2008. Assessing the benefits of grazing land conservation practices. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 63:214-217.

Interpretive Summary: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Effect Assessment Project (CEAP) for cropland was initiated in 2003 and is well advanced in terms of both the national and watershed scale work. The CEAP component aimed at assessing conservation on grazing lands was initiated in 2006. “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. Rangelands comprise approximately 40% of the landmass of the United States, including nearly 80% of the lands of the western states. Much of the rangelands in the west are sparsely populated, and conditions on that land are not well documented over extensive areas. Some of the primary conservation practices implemented on rangelands include prescribed grazing, invasive species control, fire management, brush management, upland habitat management, fencing, water distribution, range seeding, and riparian management. These conservation practices are designed to reduce losses of soil, nutrients, pesticides, pathogens, and other biological and chemical materials from rangelands, conserve natural resources, and enhance the quality of ecosystems and wildlife habitat. The environmental benefits of grazing lands conservation practices have not previously been quantified for reporting at the national scale. The principal grazing lands resource concerns that CEAP plans to evaluate are: a) Plant community status, condition, and dynamics, b) Water quality (nutrients, pathogens, and sediment delivery to lakes, rivers, and streams), c) Soil quality (including soil erosion and carbon storage) d) Water conservation (flood and drought protection), and e) Wildlife habitat. The USDA strategy for the grazing land national assessment encompasses a 5 part process and is described in this article.

Technical Abstract: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Effect Assessment Project (CEAP) was initiated in 2006 to quantify the environmental benefits of conservation on grazing lands. Strategy for the grazing land national assessment encompasses a 5 part process: National Assessment - Providing national summary estimates of conservation practice benefits and assessing the potential for USDA conservation programs and technical assistance to meet the nations environmental and conservation goals; Watershed Assessment Studies - Basic research on conservation practices in selected watersheds nationwide to provide a framework for evaluating and improving performance of national assessment models; Bibliographies – Compilation of current literature on what is known and not known about the environmental benefits of conservation practices and programs. Literature Reviews/Synthesis – A literature synthesis is underway by the Society of Range Management in partnership with USDA to describe what is known about the environmental effects of NRCS grazing lands conservation practices at the field, hillslope, and watershed scale; Technology transfer and outreach – Special symposia and conferences will be organized and conducted in association with professional societies to gather technical material and results from recent research that can be used to improve the scientific knowledge base for making decision on which conservation practices are most efficient at achieving specific environmental benefits. The principal grazing lands resource concerns that CEAP plans to evaluate are: a) Plant community status, condition, and dynamics, b) Water quality (nutrients, pathogens, and sediment delivery to lakes, rivers, and streams), c) Soil quality (including soil erosion and carbon storage) d) Water conservation (flood and drought protection), and e) Wildlife habitat. The initial ARS focus will be on intermountain shrub and grass dominated rangelands, followed by efforts on eastern pastures, and the central plains over the next 5 years. This article focuses on the intermountain aspects of the ARS grazing land CEAP assessment.

Last Modified: 10/22/2014
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