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Key Sites Aid in Range Management

Monitoring key sites will help rangeland managers see what’s happening in an entire management unit.

Monitoring can help range managers better understand rangeland ecology and health.

“As a result, management decisions can be made to improve or maintain the productivity and sustainability of rangelands,” says Chuck Lura, Extension rangeland specialist at the North Dakota State University Central Grasslands Research Extension Center near Streeter.

Because monitoring all the ecological sites and plant species in a management unit is not feasible, monitoring techniques may involve the selection of areas or species that are key to understanding what is happening to the entire unit.

A key site is a portion of the range that serves to indicate the ecological condition, trend or degree of use for an entire pasture because of its location, grazing value and/or use. A key site is often on an extensive ecological site within a pasture that receives representative utilization.

The specific location of a key site must be chosen carefully because the information gathered while monitoring these sites will be used to represent conditions on the entire management unit, Lura says. Selecting key areas away from water, salt/minerals, trails, corners of pastures or other areas that are not representative of the grazing pressure is important. Accessibility is also a consideration.

Some range monitoring manuals recommend setting up two replications of two different key sites in each pasture. That may not be realistic for many managers, but it underscores the fact that the more managers monitor, the more likely they will have reliable information upon which to base their management decisions, according to Lura.

Monitoring key sites can serve as valuable indicators of management effectiveness. Once key sites have been chosen for monitoring, managers can observe what is happening on them and use that information to infer what is happening to the entire pasture. When proper range management principles are applied, the entire pasture may be considered correctly used.

The Central Grasslands Research Extension Center has established a program to assist producers to implement and maintain range monitoring procedures. This effort is made possible through funding from NDSU, the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust and Ducks Unlimited.

To learn more about this program or rangeland monitoring in general, contact Lura at (701) 424-3606 or chuck.lura@msub.nodak.edu.


NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Charles Lura, (701) 424-3606, charles.lura@msub.nodak.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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