Range monitoring program wraps up initial projects, begins new endeavorsWritten by Natasha Wheeler
The initial Rangeland Health Assessment Program (RHAP) projects will mature within the next year, and University of Wyoming (UW) Extension Educator Barton Stam is optimistic about the success of the program.
“It’s a little bit premature to comment on the long-term success of RHAP, but I’m seeing good things so far,” he notes. “I hope that we continue for the next 10 years, monitoring keeps happening, and we get data in, managing the range to allow for grazing.”
Administered by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, RHAP brings together landowners, agencies and other entities to ensure adequate monitoring of rangelands throughout the state.
“RHAP tries to provide a jumpstart for getting data collected so we can actually have it,” he explains.
Without proper data, land managers don’t have the resources they need to stand up to anti-grazing or anti-ranching organizations that threaten their livelihoods.
When Stam talks to permittees, many are under the impression that the monitoring responsibility belongs to someone else, such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or Forest Service.
“We can sit here and argue about why it’s not being done until we are blue in the face, but it’s going to be the permittee who gets hurt if the data isn’t there,” he says.
The first RHAP projects began in 2011, after the Wyoming Legislature agreed to fund the program. At that point, project organizers applied for grants to fund rangeland-monitoring programs. Currently, 37 projects have been funded, covering over 4 million acres of land.
“To run these RHAPs successfully, we need to be organized,” remarks Stam. “I’ve found that this time of year, late winter, is the time to be pulling together and meeting. We need to get everyone together and talk about things like what we’re going to spend money on, where we’re going to monitor, who’s going to be doing the monitoring, if there’s going to be a contractor, what the contractor will do and when all of that is going to happen.”
He adds that the other key to success is communication. Working between government agencies, conservation districts, UW Extension, landowners and other parties requires everyone to work together as a team.
“The real magic with RHAP is all of the sudden we are all together, we are making a plan about what we are going to do and the monitoring is happening,” he states.
Stam is currently involved in a number of projects, including one of the original efforts involving producers in Big Horn and Washakie counties. Along with four permittees, the project also involves BLM, Forest Service and UW Extension.
“A colleague of mine and I have also just started one in Big Horn County that has one permittee and the Forest Service. I’ve got another in Hot Springs County with one ranch, BLM and the Office of State Lands involved. Then I have one I’m involved with in Fremont County that has at least half a dozen permittees, BLM and state folks as well,” he says.
Project funds are awarded through grants and managed through an agency or entity, such as UW Extension or a conservation district. Project managers must agree to a minimum of 30 percent cost share through time and salary.
“The Board of Agriculture approves these grants, and they are really looking for permittee involvement so we have long-term, sustainable, rangeland-monitoring programs that go on even after the grant money runs out,” explains Stam.
Stam spoke on Nov. 30 at the Progressive Rancher Forum in Casper.