What is in this article?:
- Invasive plants, energy development threaten Southwest rangeland
- Multiple resources at risk
- New study warns of rangeland at risk.
- U.S. rangelands are currently in relatively good ecological condition.
- Drought may represent the most stress to rangelands.
Drought may represent the most stress to rangelands.
Multiple resources at risk
Rangelands in the United States provide extractable goods, such as plant materials, as well as tangible and intangible rangeland ecosystem services, such as clean water, carbon sequestration, and renewable energy. But of greatest importance is forage and feed supply in support of livestock and wildlife.
The report indicates the total forage supply is near 1.9 to 2.6 trillion pounds. Based on this estimate, the forage situation is positive and forage quantity is sufficient to support roughage requirements of wild and domestic herbivores now and into the foreseeable future. But forage supplies could decline as threats begin to affect rangeland ecology at the expense of other resources.
In addition, concepts of rangeland health are still evolving. The extent and remoteness of rangelands make assessing health and vitality difficult. No national monitoring framework is in place to collect data over time and, unlike the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Forrest Service currently has no data collection protocol permitting evaluation of rangeland health on all lands under their control.
Invasive plant species have continued to increase in spread and density, and estimates of expansion over time are reflected by the growth in concern over the associated problems. The size and scope of the problem, and the generally uncoordinated approach toward controlling invasive species, make determining the amount of effort committed to combating invasive species difficult. Despite this difficulty, in the year 2000, the total annual cost was estimated at $137 billion in losses and direct expenditures. Those numbers will grow rapidly in the years ahead.
Despite the scope of the problem, the invasive species situation is not hopeless and substantial investments in control and mitigation efforts have been made.
USFS says U.S. rangelands are not in imminent danger from the many risks and threats that exist today. But they advise more awareness and monitoring will be required in the years ahead if rangeland ecology and productivity is to be preserved for future generations.
In spite of the many risks, present and future, the most pressing may well remain severe drought conditions that continue to stress not only the Great Southwest, but also growing regions across America’s midsection.