Key sites aid in management
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 sustain ability of rangelands,” says Chuck Lura, Extension rangeland specialist at the North Dakota State Univer sity (NDSU) Central Grass lands Research Extension Center near Streeter, ND. Because monitoring all the ecological sites and plant species in a management unit is not feasible, monitor ing techniques may involve the selection of areas or spe cies that are key to under standing what is happening to the entire unit. A key site is a portion of the range that serves to in dicate the ecological condi tion, trend or degree of use for an entire pasture be cause of its location, grazing value and/or use. A key site is often on an extensive eco logical site within a pasture that receives representative utilization.
The specific location of a key site must be chosen carefully because the infor mation gathered while mon itoring 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 set ting up two replications of two different key sites in each pasture. That may not be realistic for many manag ers, but it underscores the fact that the more managers monitor, the more likely they will have reliable infor mation upon which to base their management deci sions, according to Lura. Monitoring key sites can serve as valuable indicators of management effective ness. 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 princi ples are applied, the entire pasture may be considered correctly used. The Central Grasslands Research Extension Center has established a program to assist producers to imple ment and maintain range monitoring procedures. This effort is made possible through funding from NDSU, the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust, and Ducks Unlimited. — WLJ