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Symposia & Workshops

15 Feb 2021
2:30 pm - 4:30 pm
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Symposia & Workshops

Fighting Fire with Fire – Rx Fire Toolbox to Combat Identified Social Barriers

Elevated fuel loads together with projected hotter and drier climatic conditions will likely lead to more frequent erratic wildfires in the western USA. Recognition that changing climate and decades of fuel accumulation are increasing the risks of wildfire has led to calls for fire management reform, including the widespread use of prescribed fire to reduce fuel loads. However, this shift in fire management emphasis is failing to be widely adopted due to social and regulatory barriers to using fire. To ensure fire management reform is broadly adopted on private land in the western states, the attitudes of stakeholders towards the use of prescribed fire as a wildfire reduction tool need to be clearly understood.

Organizer: Morgan Treadwell


Restoration of Invasive Annual Grass Invaded Landscapes

Invasive annual grasses are a reoccurring challenge on North American rangelands. This symposium will overview the devastating impacts of invasive annual grasses, regional scale strategies to tackle the problem, on-the-ground examples of restoration, and introduction to a new rangeland restoration herbicide providing multi-year invasive annual grass control.  Presentations will provide a foundation for why invasive annual grasses continue to devastate the West and facilitate discussions around cross-boundary collaboration with new and emerging control options. Discussions will be valuable for state, federal, and private landowners battling invasive annual grasses such as cheatgrass, medusahead, and ventenata.

A diverse line-up of experts in the field of weed science, wildlife biology, and rangeland ecology and management, will provide a reputable foundation of science-based ideas and focus on emerging management options. Presentations will include:

  • Overview of the invasive annual grass issue in the west
  • The Great Basin and regional restoration strategies
  • Invasive weeds in Utah and solutions provided by University research
  • Cooperative research to develop Rejuvra™ herbicide, a new tool for rangeland restoration
  • Improving forage and increasing returns on livestock production
  • Enhancing pollinator habitat and species diversity while reducing wildfire risk
  • Grassland birds at the crossroads
  • Reclaiming mule deer and elk habitat
  • Restoring habitat and enhancing multi-use opportunities in natural areas
  • New tools provide new opportunities, but long-term success is grounded in stewardship

Organizer: Derek Sebastian


The USDA-NRCS Grazing Land National Resources Inventory: History and Current Applications

The National Resources Inventory (NRI) is a federally-mandated inventory of natural resources originating from the devastating days of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. These surveys first occurred as inventories of conservation need every decade beginning in 1945 but have evolved into an annual survey. The program collects and produces scientifically credible information on the status, condition, and trends of land, soil, water, and related resources on the Nation’s non-federal lands in support of efforts to protect, restore, and enhance the lands and waters.

USDA-NRCS in cooperation with Iowa State University’s Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology, conducts these surveys on non-federal lands. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducts these surveys on BLM land through the Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring Program (AIM) Landscape Management Framework (LMF) using NRI protocol. On range and pasturelands across 49 states, the inventory process has evolved from qualitative assessments in the early 1980s to robust quantitative field methods used since 2003 to the present. This data is collected with the same detail each year to answer the questions  “what is out there?” and “what are the trend and condition?” of those lands.

In addition to providing information on status, condition, and trends of US lands, the NRI is one of the most extensive spatial and temporal national grazing land datasets, with the potential to address diverse research questions. The scale at which NRI data are collected allows for a statistically valid way of scaling research up to regional and national scales. Multidisciplinary and multi-institutional researchers use NRI data for modeling erosion, evaluating pollinator habitat loss, valuing ecosystem services, and developing tools to address natural resources concerns. Future potential uses of this dataset include its application of the development and validation of remote sensing and modeling products for interpretation of imagery, the development of early warning systems to detect resource concerns, and additional uses.

Valuing ecosystem services of rangelands is now possible through the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) on Grazing Lands using NRI data. Data from the rangeland study (2004-present) is currently being used to generate remote sensing products and estimate economic valuation of ecosystem services. And with the significant temporal and spatial scope of Rangeland NRI data, new products and resources for range conservation work are emerging.  The utility and accessibility of remote sensing for use in rangeland conservation has been greatly enhanced by new tools like the Rangeland Analysis Platform and the West-Wide Fuelcasting System dependent on NRI data for their creation.

In this symposium, enjoy a trip from the past days of the devastating Dust Bowl through the creation of the United States National Resource Inventory statistical land use and natural resource condition survey across BLM and non-federal lands, to new directions of ecosystem service valuation, development of remote sensing tools and a shared understanding of rangeland ecosystem functions forming the direction for future resource management.

Organizer: Brenda Simpson


Evaluating Foraging Behavior of Free-Ranging Livestock – Bridging Technology and Traditional Field Research

Free-ranging livestock use portions of extensive rangeland landscapes, which reduce exposure to performance-inhibiting factors such as low-quality forage, steep slopes, and pest-ridden hotspots. Such decisions play out at multiple spatiotemporal scales, from selecting bites over a few seconds to the choice of patches within landscapes over seasons and across years. Although traditional field-based research methods, including observational approaches (and transect-based vegetation measurements), have informed much of our understanding of free-ranging livestock foraging ecology and management, new on-animal sensors have dramatically enhanced our ability to measure foraging behavior at multiple scales. The use of technologies has increased rapidly for research purposes and in on-farm applications under a contemporary livestock management approach called Precision Livestock Farming, which is based on monitoring individuals using different sensors. The various sensors employed in Precision Livestock Farming include jaw movement recorders such as mechanical sensors (pressure sensors) and acoustic sensors (microphone) to understand the relationship between jaw movements, biting behavior and forage intake. Additionally, high sampling frequency GPS collars are used to record location and classify grazing behavior. A broad challenge for future rangeland research is to use these new tools to build on what we have learned from traditional research techniques in an effort that may help revolutionize rangeland management.

This symposium will allow rangeland scientists to share perspectives, challenges, and insights concerning the quantification of livestock foraging behavior measured from new technology. Participants will learn how these new tools can be employed in extensive landscapes to answer rangeland management challenges in dynamic, ever-changing environments across the globe. Time for interactive question and answer exchanges will follow each presentation, including:

  • Understanding the efficacy of a commercial noseband sensor in recording grazing behavior in the Colorado shortgrass steppe.
  • Connecting the dots from geolocation to grazing impact: a 6-yr tracking scheme of goat herds in the Judean Hills and its subsequent evolution.
  • Detection of grazing and ingestive behaviors in rangeland livestock using simple accelerometer ear tags.
  • Automated sensor technologies to measure grazing behavior and feed intake on improved pasture.
  • Technological advances in GPS collars and activity sensors for monitoring cattle grazing behavior and distribution in the mixed-grass prairie of the Northern Plains.
  • Use of GPS and accelerometers to detect nursing behavior in range beef calves.

Organizer: Edward J. Raynor and the SRM Livestock Foraging Behavior Committee.


Outcome Based Grazing Authorizations

In August 2017, the BLM began a new initiative for Outcome Based Grazing Authorizations (OBGA). Under this initiative, the BLM works with livestock operators to develop OBGA  providing greater flexibility to adjust grazing use in response to changing conditions to achieve specific vegetative, habitat, and livestock operation sustainability objectives. The BLM subsequently developed the Instruction Memorandum, Flexibility in Livestock Grazing, which specifies that ‘The BLM may authorize grazing permits and leaseholders (permittees) to exercise flexibility by making adjustments in their livestock grazing use to accommodate changes in weather, forage productions, effects of fire or drought, or other temporary conditions when flexibility is included in an allotment management plan (AMP) or its functional equivalent.” The policy also states that at least one of the alternatives in the National Environmental Policy Act analysis must describe and analyze the flexibility, including the objectives and monitoring plan.

The BLM addresses flexibility in the grazing decision, and then incorporate the flexibility as a term and condition of the subsequent grazing authorization.  Prescriptive terms and conditions in grazing permits/leases often interfere with an operator’s ability to implement necessary and timely grazing management adjustments. The demonstration projects use grazing authorizations as a framework for livestock operators to demonstrate achievement of habitat and vegetation objectives by providing flexibility to apply their knowledge and  experience.

Local BLM field offices are using demonstration projects to share experiences and develop best practices. These demonstration projects will give BLM and our partners information and experience for developing consistent national policy to implement outcome-based grazing. Information acquired through this effort will also allow potential recommendations for regulatory modifications that could better provide for the ability to issue OBGA that maximize and normalize using greater flexibility to address changing conditions. For example, rather than specifying on/off  dates for moving between pastures, management will focus on achieving end results using indicators like grazing utilization patterns and seasonal use/rest balance for the goal of balancing forage and habitat resources for the greatest mutual gain.

This symposium will begin with a short introduction to OBGA and accomplishments thus far as well as direction of the initiative for the coming year(s). Following will be presentations by the Smith Creek OBGA and the Horseshoe/Scotts Gulch OBGA. These presentations will largely focus on how objectives and monitoring plans have been created and integrated into the NEPA analysis and subsequent decision in a way to allow for flexibility and ensure accountability. The Horseshoe/Scotts Gulch will also speak about how they are planning to enter their first year of implementation.  Following will be a very informative presentation regarding how ranch operations can help plan for economic resilience and how ranch objectives can be effectively created and integrated. We look forward to sharing this valuable information as well as hearing your thoughts and experiences regarding OBGA.  We will ensure there is time allowed for a constructive conversation, so bring your thoughts!

Organizer: Kathryn Dyer


Connecting Targeted Graziers & Land Managers

This symposium will focus on what targeted graziers do and how to hire the best.  We will begin with an overview of the new SRM Certification of Targeted Graziers and discuss the value of certification for graziers and  those who hire them.  Members of the SRM Targeted Grazing Committee will present a brief overview of grazing ecology as related to targeted grazing practices and resources available through SRM. The balance of the symposium will be a moderated panel of five targeted graziers from various regions of the U.S. and Canada. These graziers will share their work, how they pair grazing animals with the target plant for weed control, fire risk reduction, and vegetation management including the opportunity for Q & A with symposium participants.

Organizers: Kelly Anderson, Marc Horney, Claudia Ingham and the Targeted Grazing Committee