Rangeland Health Assessment Program – A Success
The Rangeland Health Assessment Program (RHAP) is now in its second year of providing funding for the collection of valuable rangeland health data to livestock producers and their partners – federal land management agencies. The Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) manages the RHAP program that is designed to help public land grazing, private landowners and Wyoming’s rangelands. RHAP was passed by the legislature in 2010, and on-the-ground projects were initiated in early 2011 and into the 2013 grazing season.
RHAP was established to provide grant funding to entities that are interested in rangeland health, cooperative monitoring and developing meaningful relationships with federal land managers.
The grant funding for 2011 consisted of $200,000 for rangeland health and cooperative monitoring project. The WDA funded 12 projects throughout the state covering approximately 810,000 acres of Wyoming’s rangelands.
In 2013, the legislature provided another $200,000 for the biennium budget. To date we have approved an additional nine projects covering approximately 600,000 acres.
The benefits RHAP brings to the state and to livestock producers is that the focus is placed on the resource, looking at the health of the rangeland or the allotment. By providing funding, livestock producers can develop joint cooperative monitoring plans with the federal and state land managers.
Joint cooperative monitoring will assess the health of the rangelands and provide much needed scientific data. This data will assist land managers in cooperation with livestock producers in their ability to develop appropriate management direction for their livestock grazing operation and for rangeland resources.
This data can also be used to assist in defending livestock grazing management decisions on livestock grazing permit orlease renewals on federal and state lands.
In addition, RHAP allows livestock operators and land management agencies the ability to work together for a common goal of achieving and maintaining rangeland health. By engaging in joint cooperative monitoring, the livestock operator works in unison with the land management agency to identify where to monitor, identify what resources are important and assist in collecting the data. This monitoring data is assured to be included in their files and assures that the data will be accepted as valid data for any permit or lease renewal process.
Another benefit RHAP has provided is through the University of Wyoming (UW). UW was contracted through RHAP to create a database of peer-reviewed scientific literature relating to grazing and grazing issues. The peer-reviewed science database will benefit individuals and land management agencies to find the best available scientifically literature on grazing and grazing interactions.
In addition, UW provided qualified rangeland ecologists to assist land management agencies with monitoring in 2011, covering 17 grazing allotments and over 324,000 acres of rangeland.
RHAP is only in its infancy but has already provided valuable information to livestock operators and federal and state land managers. This information will be used to affect future land management decisions across the state.
If you have interest in the Rangeland Health Assessment Program or its benefits, please contact the Natural Resource and Policy Division of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture at 307-777-6576 or visit wyagric.state.wy.us/divisions/nrp.