Matzek looks at gaps between science and management of rangelandsWritten by Saige Albert
Sheridan – For many rangeland managers, the information they seek to improve their management is unavailable or unclear, and Virginia Matzek from Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif. is working to address that problem.
“When I was in grad school, I would go to cocktail parties, and people would feign interest in my research. They’d always ask, ‘What is that information good for?’” says Matzek. “I realized I had no idea what managers did or what kinds of research they wanted.”
As a result, she has become involved with the California Invasive Plant Council, an organization that seeks to bring managers and researchers together, to rethink her research and determine how it could be more useful.
“There is a knowing-doing gap or a research-implementation gap,” says Matzek. “We have information that accumulates about the science of ecology and management, but it is not being incorporated into management actions.”
Currently, Matzek is involved in a research project to attempt to address those concerns.
“The first part of what I looked at is what managers want. We did a survey in California asking producers what kind of research was needed,” she says. “Part two was to find out if what managers got was matching up with what they need or if there is a disjoint between what scientists are producing and what managers like to read.”
Matzek continues that both managers and scientists can each do more to improve the gap.
“Is it the managers fault? Are scientists doing good work while managers are stuck in their groove?” she asks. “Or are ivory tower academic researchers out of touch with what we do on the ground? Is research inadequate?”
She continues that she has worked to explain the knowing-doing gap and improve interaction between rangeland management and research.
Explaining the gap
Matzek noted that there are several factors that may influence the knowing-doing gap.
“First, applied research doesn’t have the same status in academia as basic research and theory development,” she comments. “Secondly, there is a lack of stakeholder involvement in research agendas.”
Lack of access to available information is also a concern, says Matzek, noting that managers may not be near universities with research libraries or they can’t get ahold of information.
“Next is the lack of interdisciplinary work,” Matzek explains. “Scientists are unable to draw connections or think more broadly and work with other disciplines to make more solutions.”
An additional concern is that managers aren’t able to understand or put into practice the complex scientific information presented in journals.
“Another concern is the mismatch of scale,” she says. “Management often happens at the 1,000 hectare level, and research happens at the meter-squared level. There is a definite mismatch there.”
The first aspect of Matzek’s research looked at what managers are looking for.
“We used the California Invasive Plant Council to put together a list of organizations that had power over land management decision making,” says Matzek, noting that a list of 403 organizations was compiled. “We also looked at the 200 high-impact invaders that affect California.”
The project asked land managers if they believe that a knowing-doing gap is present, if research is targeting their needs and if the research is available.
“Less than 25 percent of managers thought their priorities were well represented by research agencies,” says Matzek.
At the same time, she notes that peer-reviewed journals are the last place that managers noted they looked to gain new management information.
“At the top of the list are informal interactions with other managers and relying on their own judgment in dealing with the landscape,” she says. “Tied after that is use of formal scientific research distilled by talks at symposia or in newsletters, books or websites that make science more palatable.”
Peer reviewed journal articles are consulted last.
While 60 percent of managers admitted they never consult journals, only half of the remaining 40 percent said they were able to find relevant information in the top 20 journals detailing invasive species management.
“We also asked those who said they never consulted journals why, and the top answer was that they didn’t have time,” Matzek continues. “More than half also said they didn’t have library access.”
Relevance of the information was a factor, but a lack of expertise rarely appeared as a reason for not consulting information.
Matzek highlights improvements that scientists can make in order to improve the knowing-doing gap.
“One thing scientists can do is to publish in open access journals,” she notes. “Often, authors would have to pay a fee to put their articles in open access journals, but anyone with an internet connection can read the paper, then.”
She adds that interfacing with managers to generate more relevant information that managers will use is important.
“The vast majority of managers use experiments and monitoring to inform themselves about management actions,” Matzek says. “Lack of expertise is not the problem with research being utilized in the field.”
Matzek spoke during the 2013 Wyoming Society for Range Management Annual Meeting, held in Sheridan. Look for more information from her presentation in upcoming editions of the Roundup.
From California to Wyoming
While her research isn’t specific to Wyoming, Santa Clara University’s Virginia Matzek notes that the ideas can be extrapolated to rangeland managers across the West. Because of the size of the state, the diversity of both habitats and species and the large number of invaders, Matzek says the state provides an ideal opportunity for research.
“Also, a lot of California – 42 percent – is in public ownership,” Matzek adds. “We also have a network for information distribution and research with weed management areas.”
Private lands bills discussed at Judiciary meetingWritten by Saige Albert
The bills were about seismic bonding, wind collector lines and regulatory takings and largely affect landowner rights in Wyoming.
Seismic bonding protections
A bill resulting from an interim topic assigned by the Management Committee of the legislature related to seismic bonding and the negotiations that take place for seismic companies to obtain access to private lands.
“I think the importance of the bill is that, right now there is no guidance from the Oil and Gas Commission for seismic companies who want to do work on private lands,” commented Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna. “They are responsible for damages and reclamation, but there is no real guidance on bonds.”
He continued, “The companies have to negotiate a surface use agreement in good faith. If they don’t, they can go to the Oil and Gas Commission and bond onto the land.”
Magagna continued to explain that typically bonds are set low – at $2,000, regardless of the number of acres the company is seeking to utilize.
“The Joint Judiciary committee heard some outstanding testimony from landowners about the challenges they have in dealing with seismic companies, not only for damages but in negotiations,” he explained. “The companies say, ‘Accept our deal, or we’ll bond on.’ Knowing they can bond on cheaply, there is no incentive to negotiate with the landowners.”
The bill is not intended to deal with damage concerns, but instead seeks to give seismic companies some incentive to negotiate surface use agreements that are satisfactory to the landowners involved.
“The bill is intended to set a minimum bond related to the number of acres seismic companies want access to,” Magagna said.
In the bill, the minimum bond is set at $5,000 for the first 1,000 acres or portion thereof and $1,000 for each additional 1,000 acres.
With over three hours of discussion related to the bill, some minor changes were made related to where the requirements would exist in statute. However, the minimum bond provisions were maintained.
“They ended up with a bill that directs the commission to set a minimum of $5,000 and $1,000 for each additional 1,000 acres,” added Magagna.
The bill will be sent to the 2013 General Session of the Wyoming Legislature.
Brett Moline of Wyoming Farm Bureau also commented on seismic exploration saying, “I think where we really need to go is in strengthening reclamation laws.”
“It seems like the complaint is that companies come in, do damage and leave, and they aren’t reclaiming like they should,” Moline added. “I think we need to take a good look at that aspect of it.”
Wind collector lines
With wind energy continuing to be an important issue in Wyoming, the issue of wind collector lines has seen some legislation developed around it.
“Since the Wind Energy Task Force was established by the legislature, we have had a moratorium on eminent domain for wind collector lines,” explained Magagna. “It was for two years, and then extended one year. The moratorium is due to expire on June 30, 2013.”
The moratorium on eminent domain was for all pieces of wind collector systems, from the generation systems to existing transmission lines, including substations.
“We worked very hard on this because there is a real inequity,” adds Magagna. “A land owner can get wind energy, and it can be very lucrative, with payments based on the megawatts collected. If you are the neighboring landowner and companies have to go across your land with the collector systems, all you get is a one-time payment, and that is miniscule.”
He clarified that the Wyoming Stock Growers Association is in favor of wind energy and sees some solutions aside from a moratorium.
“The bill requires that companies have to negotiate voluntary agreements with 85 percent of the landowners or landowners representing 85 percent of the lands,” he said. “Several of the wind energy representatives spoke up in opposition. They felt it was an unworkable burden.”
When wind energy industry representatives were asked if they preferred a moratorium or the new proposal, they would rather continue the moratorium for two years, with the opportunity to work with landowner groups to develop another solution.
“The bill essentially extends the moratorium through June 2015,” Magagna said of the resulting bill. “It also puts the pressure on to come up with some reasonable approaches. This is an important step.”
“There was also a third bill from the Wyoming Stock Growers Association,” commented Magagna. “It is a bill dealing with regulatory taking.”
Magagna explained that Wyoming Law currently states that agencies must use a checklist when passing a regulation to determine if the regulation will result in the taking of a partial interest in private property.
“Under the law, they can take a partial interest in private property, but they have to compensate for it,” he added. “If they simply do something that devalues the land, they don’t have to.”
The bill would require that if more than 20 percent of partial interest in property was acquired as a result of a regulation, compensation would be required.
“For a state like Wyoming that is committed to protecting private property rights, it is a good bill, but there are a lot of complexities,” Magagna noted. “There are a lot of questions, and I proposed they table the bill.”
The bill was tabled and will also be recommended to the Management Committee as a topic for consideration at the next interim session of the legislature.
The bills reviewed in committee are available at legisweb.state.wy.us.
Award recognizes range technologyWritten by Saige
Cheyenne – Terry Booth of the Agriculture Research Service (ARS) High Plains Grasslands Research Center, Sam Cox of Wyoming BLM and consultant Robert Berryman were recognized at the Federal Laboratory Consortium Mid-Continent Region (FLC) meeting this August for the development of new technology for monitoring rangelands.
Each year, FLC honors regional laboratories in five categories: the STEM award, Notable Technology Development Award, Outstanding Laboratory Award, Excellence in Technology Transfer Award and Outstanding Laboratory Representative Award.
Booth, Cox and Berryman received the Notable Technology Development Award for their Range Management Software Systems. The team developed five software programs for rangeland monitoring: SamplePoint, ImageMeasurement, Sample Freq, LaserLog and Merge.
Booth, who served as project lead, says, “In 2,000, I changed my research program to rangeland monitoring using what we called very large scale aerial photography.”
“Between 2000 and about 2004 we developed our aerial photographic system to achieve resolutions as great as one millimeter per pixel (mmpp), which was the highest resolution aerial photography in the world,” continues Booth.
For comparison, one mmpp resolution is 30,000 times greater resolution than that obtained by the well-known Landsat satellites and is a resolution capable of resolving blades of grass.
“From about 2004, we began working on methods for making measurements from our one mmpp images. This resulted in the development of the SamplePoint program by 2006,” adds Booth.
Cox, a natural resource specialist with the Wyoming BLM, explains, “The way that SamplePoint works is that it puts an array of dots on the image, and the user goes through and classifies what each of those points is sitting on, whether that is grass, shrub or bare ground.”
He adds, “The beauty of this software is we don’t have to go out into the field at all. We principally used it with aerial photos that we gathered with light sport airplanes.”
In a paper written by Booth and Cox, published in Rangelands, the pair says, “What SamplePoint analysis does is reduce analysis time, cost and environmental stress. Most importantly, users can work from a permanent photographic record.”
“These advantages are important because they reduce user-related variation in data,” continues the paper, which is titled Art to Science: Tools for Greater Objectivity in Resource Monitoring.
The software also works with photographs taken using handheld cameras while walking across transects of land.
“Once you have the imagery, photos can be uploaded into the software and the dots are placed on the image,” explains Cox. “The user simply has to go through and classify what each dot is sitting on. That data is directly put into a spreadsheet.”
SamplePoint is most useful for trend monitoring, but has been used in a variety of projects across the country and around the world.
“It works well in invasive species to detect the early stages of invasion,” explains Cox. “There was not a resource base available to do a widespread survey for weeds that aren’t abundant yet.”
A common method for detecting weed invasion is driving along county roads and simply looking for stands of weeds, but the exploration into areas without roads is much less practical.
“In Idaho, for example, we covered about 10,000 acres in a few days with the airplanes and are able to look at the photographs to determine the density and cover of spotted knapweed,” says Cox. “We were able to identify not only the areas where this weed was just starting to establish itself, but also areas outside what the public land managers already knew about. We were discovering new invasion points, based on using the software and aerial photography.”
SamplePoint technology is available on the web and can be downloaded for no charge. Currently, the software has been downloaded in 28 countries around the world and is being widely used by the UW Extension, Wyoming BLM, the University of Wyoming, North Dakota State University, New Mexico State University and Colorado State University.
“SamplePoint is not limited to agency use, by any means – it is for anybody to use,” says Cox. “The software is very simple to use and a tutorial is included. The idea is that ranchers, BLM or Forest Service can use it easily. All the software requires is that you provide an email address and location for us to keep track of where it is being used and how many people are using the program.”
SamplePoint is only one of five programs created by the team for rangeland monitoring. ImageMeasurement, a second program, provides the user with tools to determine the width or length of an item of interest or the area of objects using images.
“We used it for measuring the width of streams or the width of a weed infestation patch,” explains Cox. “It is similar to what can be done using GIS, but the difference is these images don’t have to be geo-referenced.”
“If we had to bring those images into a GIS program, we would have to spend a lot of time geo-referencing them before doing any sort of analysis,” continues Cox. “With ImageMeasurement, the user can bring it in immediately and start measuring. All users have to know is the image resolution, so it is a much simpler, quicker way to do that.”
ImageMeasurement software is also free and has been distributed to a number of university researchers, BLM and the Forest Service.
“There are plans to get ImageMeasurement on the web and available for download as well,” says Cox.
SampleFreq, the third program, is currently in development.
“It works a lot like SamplePoint,” Cox says. “The only difference is that SampleFreq measure plant frequency rather than plant cover.”
Merge and LaserLog are programs that were developed to aid in aerial photograph collection.
“LaserLog was a program we developed to record the height above ground of the airplane and the reflected light coming off the ground so that we could correlate that with image exposure,” says Cox. “Merge is a program for image location with the actual image files, based on time synchronization.”
While the programs are utility programs, they were essential to putting the images into a database so Cox and Booth were able to work with them.
The five programs work together for easier rangeland monitoring practices.
“The main things that are important is that anyone can download the software, and all of the software is freely available, although not easily available yet,” says Cox. “We hope to get the other software programs on the web for an easy download soon. At this point, SamplePoint is the only program available online.”
Booth adds that ImageMeasurement is ready for release, except for the development of a technical support plan. Additionally, SampleFreq is in a continued testing and improvement phase.
“SampleFreq might be released sometime next year, depending on the outcome of tests,” says Booth.
In receiving the Notable Technology Development Award, Booth facilitated contact with the awards committee. Berryman of Berryman Consulting in Boulder, Colo. wrote the computer programs associated with the rangeland monitoring technology.
“Bob Berryman’s contribution in authoring the computer code for all the software programs shouldn’t be understated,” says Cox. “He came up with some very creative methods of writing computer code to make it all happen, and has constantly updated all the programs in response to user feedback.”
Oneok announces possible route for second pipeline in eastern WyomingWritten by Christy Martinez
One of the proposed pipeline’s routes closely follows that of the Bakken Pipeline, for which the route has already been negotiated with eastern Wyoming landowners, who are collectively known as Progressive Pathways.
“The first thing I thought was that I wasn’t surprised,” says Cheyenne attorney Frank Falen, who has worked closely with Progressive Pathways through the first pipeline. “We knew there was a possibility of another pipeline coming, but it wasn’t concrete.”
Oneok contacted the landowner group after their announcement on April 10.
“From what we understand, they know where it will start and where it will end, but they’re not firm on whether it will exactly follow this other pipeline,” says Falen. “It would be a little shorter on a different route to the east, but there are advantages to using the same route.”
Falen says that, from the announcement posted online, it would appear the route is set.
“But that is the reason that they contacted us yesterday, so they could tell our group that even though it appears to be exactly on that right-of-way, it is still up in the air whether it would go that way, or be moved to the east,” explains Falen, adding that it’s a 50/50 shot as to whether the new pipeline will be in the existing route or to the east.
Progressive Pathways board member and alternate member of the negotiating committee Clark House, who lives 10 miles west of Yoder, says he participated in a conference call with the company on April 10.
“As of right now, that is just a projected second pipeline,” says House. “They had to put a location in to start the process with their investors, and they’re still not sure if it will go through here, or through a Nebraska route.”
House says that, in his opinion, he doesn’t see why Oneok wouldn’t already use the through right-of-way that they’ve already surveyed.
“This is the best route there was to begin with,” he says.
Progressive Pathways board member Steve Hays, whose place is west of La Grange, says his first concern on hearing the news was that their area would eventually turn into a corridor of pipelines.
Route requires new
Should Oneok decide that they want to run another pipeline in the same corridor they’ve already negotiated, they would have to go through a separate, additional negotiation process for the new project.
“In our negotiations, we said that the right-of-way they have now is for one pipeline and one right-of-way. They can’t sell it off to anybody else, or put another pipeline or fiber optics in it. It’s one pipeline, period,” says House.
House notes that another contract may consist of adding another 25 feet to the existing right-of-way, which would give the company enough room to construct another pipeline. Falen says it could also include selling a second easement on top of the first.
“I think the majority of landowners in the first pipeline would be willing to talk about a second one,” says House. “There are always a few who didn’t want this one, the next one or any one, but you have to make the best of what you’re dealt.”
House says they would “most definitely” use their experience with the first pipeline.
“In every endeavor, the first time is a steep learning curve. There are things we would do differently, and that they would probably do differently,” he notes. “They’re talking about a 20-inch oil pipeline this time, and the last was a 12-inch natural gas liquids pipeline, so there would be additions and subtractions from the first one.”
First pipeline moves
Regarding the Bakken Pipeline that has already completed negotiations, House says the exact path is almost finalized, and it will soon begin to be flagged in the final survey.
“The last we heard, all that will start in the middle of May,” says House. “They hoped to have equipment running by the first of June.”
He explains that, rather than starting at one end or the other, five crews will build the pipeline in 100-mile segments.
“They’ll really push to be done by the first of January, and in production,” says House.
Of the reclamation, he says parts of it would begin this fall, with replacing topsoil and beginning seeding, but the majority would wait for Spring 2013.
House has about a mile and a quarter of the pipeline on his place, and he says that, through construction, he will watch closely for any activity outside the right-of-way.
“They have a certain amount of space they paid for and are supposed to stay in, and they’ll be in a big area without fences or anything to stop them,” says House. “That will be the biggest concern of most of the landowners – they need to adhere to the terms of the contract, and stay on their own right-of-way.”
Waiting for word
As far as the Bakken Crude Express Pipeline is concerned, House says there was some discussion on the teleconference about being a little farther down the road with the plan in June.
“By mid-summer they hope to have a greater idea of what they want, and what they will do,” he states.
Even if the proposed pipeline doesn’t end up following the existing route, Falen says he and the landowners have reason to believe there’s another that’s also in the works that could also follow the existing route.
“It’s certainly not surprising that there would be more pipelines, and that’s all the more reason we need to legislate and deal with issues such as bonding,” says Falen.
Hays adds that he would like to see a statewide pipeline abandonment fund, where the state could take care of abandoned pipelines similar to its program for abandoned mines.
“We’re monitoring the situation, with contact with Oneok, and when a definitive route is planned we’ll see if we need to be involved,” says Hays.
Digital cameras track changesWritten by Saige
Rangeland ecologists at the USDA are now utilizing high-resolution digital cameras and taking panorama pictures to track changes in landscapes.
According to hydraulic engineer at Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Southwest Watershed Research Center in Tucson, Ariz. Mary Nichols, there are approximately 770 million acres of rangeland in the U.S.
The high-resolution digital photographs should be able to accurately help ecologists assess the condition of rangeland and riparian areas.
Nichols has used the technology since October of 2008 when she took photos of an Arizona rangeland to evaluate whether digital panoramas could be used to monitor riparian areas, plants or wildlife.
“The resulting panoramas were so detailed that she could count the number of elk in a distant herd, and even evaluate the condition of each animal,” says ScienceDaily.
Nichols was also capable of documenting the numbers of invasive buffelgrass stands through the photos and will be able to track the extent to which the species is spreading through nearby mountain ranges.
The ability to not only identify animals, but plants as well, will allow researchers to monitor rangelands in the lab, rather than in the field, as well as keep more detailed records of monitoring.
An additional benefit of the photographs will be the ability to collaborate by posting the panoramas online.
In her paper Very-High-Resolution Panoramic Photography to Improve Conventional Rangeland Monitoring, Nichols says, “Advances in image sensors, storage media and image- processing software allow enormous amounts of information to be collected efficiently and inexpensively, so multiple pictures taken at full zoom can be combined into a single high-resolution panoramic image.”
Previous use of photography only allowed researchers to take single images that were low resolution to capture entire landscapes. However, with the advent of easy-to-use computer programs, single, zoomed images can be “stitched” together digitally and automatically to reveal a highly detailed photo of an entire landscape.
In collecting these photographs, Nichols says, “The system consists of three technological developments: a robotic camera mount for automating camera positions and shutter release with a standard digital camera, custom software for constructing very-high-resolution gigapixel panoramas and alignment and image extent parameters are stored in the robot’s memory.”
The value of this technology for rangeland ecologists is monumental.
“Riparian areas are often difficult to monitor because they are often extensive and can exhibit a high degree of variability longitudinally through the channel corridor,” writes Nichols. “Transect measurements channel cross-section measurements, and inventories of bed and bank condition are often insufficient to characterize an entire riparian reach.”
Nichols continues that the photographs show enough detail to make observations for rangeland monitoring.
Finally, Nichols classifies the use of digital panoramas as a “significant opportunity to improve current photographic techniques.”
Nichols writes, “Integration with well-established monitoring programs will improve our ability to manage watersheds and riparian area, restoration efforts and livestock grazing.”