Rangelands West: A Western Regional Land-Grant Web Initiative

Protect and Enhance the Nation's Natural Resource Base and Environment
Research Year: 
2004
Issue: 

The Agriculture National Information Network (AgNIC) is an initiative involving multiple land grant universities and the U.S. National Agricultural Library. At the University of Arizona, the Managing Rangelands web development project is a component of AgNIC that distributes basic information to the public, specialized information to land managers, and educational resources to students and teachers. The effort at the University of Arizona includes the Science-Engineering Library and three units in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: the School of Natural Resources, the Arid Lands Information Center, and the Networking Group of the Educational Computing and Technology unit. The goal is to provide timely, accurate, trusted information on Western rangelands. Initially focused on Arizona, the renamed “Rangelands West” portal is being developed as part of a multi-state collaborative effort.

Description of Action: 

Over the past 9 years, the Arizona Rangelands site has been regularly updated and expanded both in content and design to improve its ability to serve rangeland students and land managers. It includes more than 350 unique pages and features. Besides an archive of full-text articles published in the Journal of Range Management and other in-depth sections on rangeland management, the web site includes a section on weeds and invasive species, and sections on marketing and conservation ranching. In cooperation with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Ecological Site Descriptions covering all areas of Arizona are also available. These guides describe soil qualities, vegetation, precipitation, and other factors that affect decision making in land management.

Recognizing that Western rangelands and environmental issues do not stop at political boundaries, a Western Rangelands Partnership was formed to develop a comprehensive Web-based resource on current issues and knowledge related to U.S. Western rangelands. This resulted in a redesign of the existing Managing Rangelands site into a regional home page [http://rangelandswest.org/] and a series of state-specific linked sites [see Arizona Rangelands at: http://rangelandswest.org/az/index.html]

One of the initial motives for selecting rangelands as the University of Arizona's contribution to AgNIC was the controversial nature of the issues surrounding the topic. To defuse those issues and provide access to balanced and trusted information, a major section is focused on policy issues concerning public land management, including such topics as wildlife and endangered species, forests and logging, mining, Indian lands, urbanization, grazing, recreation and wilderness areas.

Impact: 

The Rangelands West web site is widely accepted as an important source of information on the understanding and management of Western rangelands. On average, the regional homepage receives more than 2,700 hits per day, bringing the total during 2004 to approximately 993,000. If usage statistics for each of the participating state sites were included, the total numbers would be significantly higher.

In addition, the newly established Western Rangelands Partnership is an accepted model for collaboration within the national AgNIC effort and now involves librarians and rangelands specialists from 19 Western land-grant institutions.

A broad cross-section of the public benefits from the web site’s capabilities. Throughout the past eight years, questions have been sent in by students from middle school through the post doctoral level. In addition, reference questions have been received from landowners in Arizona, with others coming from people in Oregon, Texas, New Mexico, and as far away as Iran and Jordan. One staff member from the U.S. Forest Service sent the following comment: “This is a great site; made me proud to be an alum. Thanks for the obvious effort that went into it. Appreciate the effort at achieving balance in the discussion.”

Funding Agencies: 

Arizona Cooperative Extension; Arizona Common Ground Roundtable (in kind); College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service; NASA/Raytheon; Natural Resources Conservation Service (in kind); University Library

Conact Name: 
George Ruyle
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

School of Renewable Natural Resources

Biosciences East 301, Tucson, AZ 85721

Tel: 520-621-1384; FAX: 520-621-8801