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Community invited to rangeland monitoring presentations Oct. 30

Posted: Thursday, Oct 25th, 2012

GIS Specialist Eric Sant captures monitoring data for rangeland assessment at Saguache Park.

SAGUACHE — A state of the art monitoring method has been put to use on three US Forest Service grazing allotments in the Saguache Ranger District and the public is invited to view the results at several presentations on the findings.

Open Range Consulting has developed ways to combine information on the ground with satellite imagery in order to assess the current condition and long-term trends of key land health indicators on both upland range and the riparian zones along streams.

Through funds from the Secure Rural Schools Act and allocated by the Saguache Resource Advisory Council (RAC), the US Forest Service engaged Open Range to assess the Saguache Park, Mill Creek and Canero Creeks for use of the grazing permittees and the agency in working together for the best possible grazing practices and overall health of the areas’ ecological functions.

Three presentations by Open Range Consulting’s Gregg Simonds and GIS Specialist Eric Sant and the US Forest Service will be held so that interested community members may learn more about the methodology and the results of the analysis. The first was in Alamosa on September 29.

The second will be at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, October 30th at the SLV Rural Electric Coop building at 3625 US Hwy 160 W, approximately 2 miles west of Monte Vista. The final presentation will also be on Tuesday, October 30th at 6 p.m. at the Saguache County Road and Bridge Building at 305 3rd St. in Saguache.

Visitors to Saguache Park last summer may have encountered the Open Range crew, using four-wheelers sporting tall aluminum booms with extendable booms. The booms were equipped with high-resolution cameras and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) units, and linked to lap-top computers mounted on the handlebars.   

These high-tech tools were collecting ground data for range monitoring.

USFS Saguache District Range Specialist, Lisa VanAmburg accompanied the work crew in the field and provided vital information for the data gathering process. The ground data collected has been combined with satellite imagery and analyzed to help resource managers and grazing permittees to better understand the conditions and long-term trends of the vegetation, land surface, and stream corridors across the entire landscape.

Open Range Consulting’s multi-scale assessment was developed by award-winning ranch manager Gregg Simonds and GIS Specialist Eric Sant to meet the needs of land managers. Their methods provide a timely, cost-effective method to determine land health and long-term trends over large areas, including entire streams and riparian areas.

Global Information Systems, or GIS, imagery, combined with high-resolution photography and other tools have provided the means to make this possible and affordable.

In development for over a decade, their methodology provides a comprehensive analysis of the current condition of the land, including the main land cover groups (i.e. trees, brush, grasses, forbs, bare ground and rock), emphasizing ground cover and water infiltration as key indicators of land health.

The data can build upon other traditional monitoring methods of range health and riparian condition and can be correlated with numerous other information sources, such as soil maps and topography.

The purpose of the analysis is to provide managers with key information to help protect and enhance the vital ecological functions of the landscape in conjunction with grazing and other uses of the land.

In addition, since satellite imagery is available starting in the mid-1970 ‘s, the method also provides analysis of the long-term trends on the rangelands and stream corridors and the results of previous management changes across the landscape. 

For more information about the presentations or the project, please contact local project coordinator, Rio de la Vista at riovista@rmi.net or 719-850-2255.

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