Rangelands comprise about 42 percent of the land area of the United States and provide vital land functions such as watershed, multiple-use, recreation, and other amenities. Currently, we do not know the status and trends of many of our nation's rangelands, and consistent protocols for describing rangeland system dynamics across land management agencies are lacking. Various Federal land management agencies have responsibility for rangeland inventory and assessments that characterize the health of the nation's rangelands. Many efforts have been initiated to standardize an approach to large-scale monitoring and assessment of rangelands, but none are universally accepted.
This paper describes four rangeland health indicators and interpretation criteria that can be used to characterize rangeland health and functionality. The four indicators tested in this study-noxious weeds, ground cover, species composition, and shrub cover-proved to be viable indicators of rangeland health and functionality. The paper recommends that these indicators can be used at many scales, from the site level for local planning, to State and national levels for strategic planning.