A Western Regional Land-Grant Web Initiative for Rangeland Management

Greater Harmony Between Agriculture and the Environment
Research Year: 
2002
Issue: 

In 1995, a collaboration began at the University of Arizona to create one of the first fully operational components of the Agriculture National Information Network (AgNIC), an initiative involving multiple land grant universities and the U.S. National Agricultural Library. Conceived as a means to distribute basic information to the public, specialized information to land managers, and instruction to students, the Managing Rangelands AgNIC web development project united the University Library with the School of Renewable Natural Resources, the Arid Lands Information Center, and the Networking Group of the Educational Computing and Technology unit in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with a common goal of providing timely, accurate, trusted information on Western rangelands. Initially, the effort focused on Arizona, but following a regional workshop held at the UA in 2002, a new "Rangelands of the Western U.S." web resource has been developed as part of a multi-state collaborative effort.

Description of Action: 

Over the past seven years, the Arizona 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 Guides 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, the March 2002 workshop explored the possibility of forming a Western regional rangelands alliance 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 of the Western U.S. web site is widely accepted as an important source of information on the understanding and management of Western rangelands. On average, the site receives more than 2,200 hits per day, bringing the total during 2002 to approximately 760,000. In addition, the newly established Western partnership is an accepted model for collaboration within the national AgNIC effort. A broad cross-section of the public benefits from the Web site's capabilities. Throughout the past seven 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