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The Rangeland Production Monitoring Service improves rangeland management

Posted date: November 19, 2018

A new data service offers timely and consistent information to inform grazing strategies, risk management, and allotment management plans

Land managers need cost-effective unbiased monitoring and assessments of current rangeland conditions and past vegetation performance in order to improve rangeland management. 

A series of three maps depicting the Projected Rangeland Forage Yield 2018 Growing Season, one showing compared to average yield 2000 - 20017, one showing lbs per acre, and one showing day of year
Data included up to July 11, 2018 (Image Source: National Park Service).
When people think of the American West, they often picture vast landscapes, open skies, and cattle grazing. The complexities of American rangelands is reduced in these images, often leaving out the grazing strategies, risk management, competing interests, extreme variability, and thin financial margins. To address these issues, the USDA Forest Service and partners developed a free data service available to all stakeholders and managers: the Rangeland Production Monitoring Service (RPMS).

The RPMS data service covers about 662 million acres of coterminous U.S. rangelands. It is comprised of two components. The first component includes a retrospective dataset that maps and quantifies annual vegetation production across rangelands from 1984 to the present. 

The second component is a forage projection system that estimates annual production in advance of and during the growing season. This component utilizes machine learning to process near real-time remote sensing data and daily weather data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to estimate the magnitude and timing of annual production throughout USDA Forest Service Region 1 (Northern Region). These data are complementary to the Grass-Cast offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub.

“The RPMS focuses on the Interior West where there is a lot of public land,” said Matt Reeves, a Research Ecologist at the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and lead developer of the System. “While primarily designed to support range managers, other users include conservation organizations, producers, and insurance underwriters.”

An image of a shortgrass prairie, showing an example of grasslands where RPMS can monitor vegetation production (photo by Steven Olson, USFS)
The RPMS can be used to monitor vegetation production in lands such as shortgrass prairies (Photo by Steven Olson, USFS).
There are two upcoming workshops where participants can learn how to access and interpret data from the RPMS to assist them in achieving their goals by relying on the best available science in the rangeland domain.  

  • Workshop 1: Virtual. 0900 to 1200 Mountain Time, 28 January 2019
  • Workshop 2: In person. Held at the Society for Range Management Annual Meeting. 5 February 2019; Time TBA.  

For more information about these workshops, contact Matt Reeves at (406) 546-5875 or mreeves@fs.fed.us.

For more information about the RPMS, click here.

 

 


The Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) is one of seven units within the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development. RMRS maintains 14 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing parts of the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains. RMRS also administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges and watersheds and maintains long-term research databases for these areas. While anchored in the geography of the West our research is global in scale. To find out more about the RMRS go to www.fs.fed.us/rmrs. You can also follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/usfs_rmrs.

 

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Contacts: 
Jennifer Hayes
970-498-1365