Rapid detection of drought is critical to reduce management response time in providing financial relief and communicating the magnitude of effects to stakeholders. During March 2019, three counties in northeastern Arizona were designated as primary natural disaster areas due to drought. The Natural Resources Conservation Service and USDA Forest Service partnered to devise a rapid detection protocol to enable prioritization of areas eligible for receiving financial resources for reseeding efforts.
The rapid detection process was enabled by analyzing 2018 annual production compared with the 34-year average using the Rangeland Production Monitoring Service (RPMS). The Rangeland Production Monitoring Service can be used to directly quantify annual net primary productivity (ANPP) losses as a measure of ecological drought, rather than relying on drought proxies to estimate effects on vegetation. In the three-county study area, 2.5 million acres of rangelands exhibited reductions in annual net primary productivity of 50-80 % while 1.2 million acres exhibited reductions of >80% compared with a 34-year baseline. To prioritize assistance for areas with >80% reductions in annual production, the Natural Resources Conservation Service examined eligibility of producers and ability to meet screening criteria ensuring specific practices could be followed, and the resulting prioritized areas were eligible for reseeding assistance. This OneUSDA project was the first of its kind and, due to its success, RMRS is now cooperatively partnering with the Farm Service Agency to aid producers on an annual basis. This project resulted in over 1 million dollars in federal aid to assist our producers in recovering the land.