Introduction to Rangelands

What is Rangeland?

When the term "Rangeland" first came into use in the 1800's, it was used to describe the extensive, unforested lands dominating the western half of the United States. Today, "Rangeland" has a much broader meaning. Lands labeled as "rangeland" include:

  • Prairies
  • Plains
  • Savanna
  • Steppe
  • Grassland
  • Shrubland
  • Desert
  • Forests (under the trees)
  • Tundra
  • Wetlands
  • Alpine Communities

Native vegetation in these areas is normally grasses, broad-leaved plants (forbs), and shrubs.

Where do you find Rangeland?

Rangelands are everywhere. They form the largest part of the earth's land surface - about 45 percent. About 36 percent of the land in the US is rangeland, and they cover over 80 percent of Utah. In Utah, rangelands cover a diverse topography - from desert canyons to spectacular mountains with numerous lakes and streams. We find rangelands on the National Forest and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Lands. It is the major land type of our state and national parks, monuments, and recreation areas as well as the Indian Reservations within the state. It is also found on the outskirts of many Utah cities and towns.

How do we use Rangelands?

In the past, rangelands in Utah only had a few uses - Mining, grazing, hunting, and a few others. Today, Utah has become well known for its rangeland and the opportunities that abound there. Some of the recreational uses we find today on Utah Rangelands include:

  • Bird and wildlife watching
  • Camping and hiking
  • Cross-country and downhill skiing
  • Driving and sightseeing
  • Fishing and hunting
  • Four wheeling (ATV's) and snowmobiling
  • Horseback riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Rafting, canoeing, and kayaking
  • Rock climbing

Non-recreational uses of Utah Rangeland include:

  • Firewood collection
  • Grazing
  • Mining
  • Wildlife Habitat

Acronyms Used in Federal Land Planning

AMP -Allotment Management Plan— Contains action program needed to manage the range resource for livestock grazing with consideration to soil, watershed, wildlife, recreation, timber, and other resources on lands within a range allotment.

AUM -Animal Unit Month — Quantity of forage required by one mature cow, or equivalent, for one month. Tenure of one animal-unit for a period of one month.

CE -Categorical Exclusion — The act of excluding an Environmental Analysis from being documented in an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement because no significant environmental effects were predicted.

C&T -Condition and Trend — Refers to range condition and trend. Condition - Current developmental stage of the range in relation to the potential or climax stage of which the area is naturally capable, either in terms of species composition or productivity. Trend - Direction of change whether stable, toward (upward) or away (downward) from the site’s potential.

CYL -Cattle Year Long — One animal grazing for an entire year.

DM -Decision Memo — A decision document that is prepared when projects are categorically excluded from preparation of an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement. A Decision Memo documents the rationale for the project and the project’s exclusion from documentation.

DN -Decision Notice — The decision document that accompanies an Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact documenting the rationale for the decision.

EA -Environmental Assessment — A report that documents the analysis and the determination of whether or not to prepare and environmental impact statement.

EIS -Environmental Impact Statement — A document or set of documents prepared for projects having significant environmental effects that disclose the effects of the project and alternatives.

FONSI -Finding of No Significant Impact — A brief document that accompanies an Environmental Assessment in which the determination was that an Environmental Impact Statement would not be prepared because the environmental effects of the project are not significant.

FSM -Forest Service Manual — The manual used by Forest Service employees which contains the regulations, policies, and direction for Forest Service activities.

ICO’s-Issues, Concerns, and Opportunities — ICO’s are what projects will resolve or capitalize on. Commonly called “issues”.

IDT -Interdisciplinary Team — A group of people including the project leader, are primarily responsible for the project design and analysis. Also known as Project ID Team.

IRM -Integrated Resource Management — The Integrated Resource Management Process is the Region 3 standardized format for tying Forest Plan Implementation and National Environmental Policy Act and other legal requirements together. A land management philosophy which recognizes that all natural resources are connected through an intricate series of interrelationships. An interdisciplinary approach to project design is used to define resource relationships and integrate procedural requirements.

LAC-Limits of Acceptable Change— A system of planning recreation in wilderness.

LO -Line Officer — The person with decision authority on the project, i.e., District Ranger, Forest Supervisor, Regional Forester, or Chief.

LMP -Land Management Plan — Defines long-term direction for managing the Tonto National Forest. Purpose is to provide for multiple use and sustained yield of goods and services from the Forest in a way that maximizes long term net public benefits in an environmentally sound manner.

NEPA -National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 — A Congressional Act which established a national policy for the environment, and provided for the establishment of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

NFMA -National Forest Management Act of 1976 — Requires each National Forest to prepare a Forest Land Management Plan. All subsequent management actions must be directed at effective implementation of the Plan.

NI -Natural Increase — Livestock offspring which are held over (past Jan. lst) to take advantage of winter and spring annuals in the desert ecosystem.

NOI -Notice of Intent — A notification published in the Federal Register to inform the public that an Environmental Impact Statement will be prepared for a project.

PIL -Project Initiation Letter — The letter from the District Ranger to the project leader to start the IRM process on the project.

PR -Project Record — The file of all products of the analysis phases.

PRIA -Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978 — A Congressional act which established a national policy for Forest Service and permittee roles in allotment management.

PU -Production-Utilization Surveys— A document which provides information on forage availability for: 1) determining estimated grazing capacity (allowable forage harvest) by livestock and wildlife; 2) analyzing opportunities to improve management technique; 3) correcting grazing problems; 4) establishing correct grazing management; and 5) locating needed range improvements.

RATM-Resource Access Travel Management — A management plan being developed to determine access to resources through the current Forest systems roads, i.e., which roads will remain open and which roads should be closed.

RBF -Range Betterment Funds — The portion of the funds collected through grazing fees which comeback to the Forest and District where they were collected for use on range improvements.

ROD -Record of Decision — The record of decision documents the rationale for selecting the project alternative, developed in the preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement, which will be implemented.

RPA -Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 — Requires the preparation of a program for the management of all acres of land administered by the Forest Service.

SO -Supervisor’s Office — Office where the Forest Supervisor and his/her staff are located.

SRP -Salt River Project — Organization formed to manage the water along the Salt River for Phoenix area farmers.

T&E -Threatened and Endangered Species — Threatened and endangered species of plants and animals that are listed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and must be protected under the terms of the Endangered Species Act.

TES-Terrestrial Ecosystem Survey— Survey used in making land management decisions through integration of soils, vegetation and climate data.

VQO -Visual Quality Objective — The desired level of excellence based on physical and sociological characteristics of an area.


Bryant, David A., Ervin M. Schmutz and Phil R. Ogden. 1978. Range management terms and definitions. The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Publication Q176. 3 p.

Holochek, Jerry L., Rex D. Pieper and Carlton H. Herbel. 1989. Range Management: Principles and Practices. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 501 p.

Range Inventory Standardization Committee. 1983. Guidelines and terminology for range inventories and monitoring. Report to the Board of Directors, Society for Range Management. Society for Range Management, Denver, CO. 13 p.

Task Group on Unity in Concepts and Terminology. 1991. New directions in range conditions assessment. Report to the Board of Directors, Society for Range Management. Society for Range Management, Denver, CO. 32 p.

Savory, Allan. 1988. Holistic Resource Management. Island Press, Washington, D.C. 564 p.