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Research Project: Understanding Ecological, Hydrological, and Erosion Processes in the Semiarid Southwest to Improve Watershed Management

Location: Southwest Watershed Research Center

Title: Insights from the USDA Grazing Land National Resources Inventory and field studies

Author
item SPAETH, K.E. - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item Rutherford, William - Austin
item HOUDSHELL, C.A. - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item Williams, Christopher - Jason
item SIMPSON, B. - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item GREEN, S. - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item Toledo, David
item SUFFRIDGE, E. - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item McCord, Sarah

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/11/2024
Publication Date: 5/10/2024
Citation: Spaeth, K., Rutherford, W.A., Houdshell, C., Williams, C.J., Simpson, B., Green, S., Toledo, D.N., Suffridge, E., Mccord, S.E. 2024. Insights from the USDA Grazing Land National Resources Inventory and field studies. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 79(2): Article 0107A. https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.2024.0107A.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.2024.0107A

Interpretive Summary: Information is collected by the United States government pertaining to the nation’s natural resources on non-federal (private) and federal (public) lands to help guide conservation and management efforts. The US Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) conducts the National Resources Inventory (NRI), which is the one of the largest field-based surveys in the world. The USDA-NRCS has been collecting these inventories for over 65 years to assess the natural resources on non-federal lands specifically. Natural resource data is collected on either rangeland or pastureland land cover types, where the rangeland sample points are consolidated in 17 western US states, plus Florida and Louisiana. The NRI has been, and continues to be, completed yearly to provide national, state, NRCS major land resource area, and ecoregion-level assessments; This article highlights findings for rangelands from a series of reports and scientific publications using the NRI data for demonstrating the usefulness of large-scale resource inventories. We aim for this work to highlight where the rangeland NRI data set continues to provide invaluable, beneficial information for future scientific research and natural resource assessments, including evaluations of current conditions and rangeland health, identifying natural resource concerns, and effective targeting of conservation practices.

Technical Abstract: The United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) National Resources Inventory (NRI) is the one of the largest, and longest running, field-based surveys in the world. The USDA-NRCS has been conducting on-site inventories for over 65 years to assess the nation’s natural resources on non-federal lands. The NRI includes a robust set of field sampling protocols applied on individual plots centered around a confidential, georeferenced sample point. Data are collected on rangeland and pastureland land use/cover types, where the spatial coverage of the rangeland samples include the 17 western US states, west of the 95° latitude, plus Florida and Louisiana. The objectives of the NRI are multifaceted and include national, state, NRCS major land resource area, and Omernick ecoregion-level assessments; and numerous research-focused studies. The purpose of this article was to highlight findings on rangelands from a series of reports and scientific publications using the USDA-NRCS NRI field-based data to demonstrate the usefulness of large-scale resource inventories. We present results from several NRI protocols such as I) similarity index, apparent rangeland trend, and Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health; II) natural resource concerns, specifically related to native and introduced plant species; III) plant census results and their implications on the life cycle of sensitive pollinating insects; and IV) economic incentives with conservation practice applications. Here, we aim to highlight, for the public and scientific communities, where the rangeland NRI data set can continue to provide invaluable information towards future research endeavors and natural resource evaluations.