Definition of Rangelands and Forests

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					Definition of Rangelands
       and Forests

        Paul Geissler
         Alison Hill
      We have a good conceptual
       definition of rangelands
"Land on which the indigenous vegetation
(climax or natural potential) is predominantly
grasses, grass-like plants, forbs, or shrubs and
is managed as a natural ecosystem. If plants
are introduced, they are managed similarly.
Rangelands included natural grasslands,
savannas, shrublands, many deserts, tundras,
alpine communities, marshes and meadows” -
Society for Range Management
To collect data in the field and estimate the
area of rangelands, we need agreement on an
operational definition.

• What is the “climax or natural potential”

•How much of what is “predominantly?”

• What species are included in “grasses, grass-
like plants, forbs, or shrubs?”
An agreement on a definition is important
• One of our proposed indicators is the area of
rangelands, and we cannot measure it without a
clear definition.
• For the other indicators to be meaningful, we
need to define specifically what area we are
talking about.
• Differences in the definitions of rangelands
and forests are very long-standing and
contentious issues.
• Different definitions of forests differ by 40 to 60
million acres
The Oregon Demonstration Project looked at
differences between the Forest Inventory and
Analysis (FIA, Forest Service USFS) definitions
and the National Resources Inventory (NRI,
Natural Resources Conservation Service
NRCS) definitions.

• USFS and NRCS agreed on at least a 10%
stocking in trees to define forests, but
operationally FIA uses 10% or more crown
cover and NRI uses 25% or more.
• FIA classifies oak woodland and juniper
woodland as forests, whereas NRI classifies as
• FIA considers junipers as trees, whereas NRI
considers them as shrubs
• There is a than 10% to 15% difference

                      FIA             NRI

     Forests          39%             34%

   Rangelands         30%             35%
   The Federal Geographic Data Committee
    (FGDC) can help reach agreement on
• Chaired by the Secretary of the Interior
• Senior representatives of each department
   • USDA - Mack Gray, Acting Deputy Under
   Secretary for Natural Resources and the
   • DOI - Dr. Charles Groat, Director, USGS
• Executive Order 12906
• OMB Circular A-16
"The Federal Geographic Data Committee
coordinates the development of the National
Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). The NSDI
encompasses policies, standards, and
procedures for organizations to cooperatively
produce and share geographic data. The 17
federal agencies that make up the FGDC are
developing the NSDI in cooperation with
organizations from state, local and tribal
governments, the academic community, and
the private sector."
        FGDC Standards Procedure

• Set up a project committee including all major
• Extensive collaboration and review
• Includes a Federal Register notice
• Establishes a standard for the Federal
Relevant FGDC subcommittees and working
• Sustainable Forest Data Working Group – Paul
Geissler (USGS) and Rich Guldin (USFS)
• Vegetation Subcommittee - Alison Hill (USFS)
• Sample Inventory and Monitoring of Natural
Resources and the Environment (SIMNRE)
Working Group - Jeff Goebel (NRCS) chair
• Earth Cover Working Group, Thomas Livari
(NRCS) chair
Our request to SRR

• Participate in the process of defining
rangeland and forests

• Appoint members to the FGDC Project

• We hope to reach the range community
through the SRR.

• White paper describing the issues

• A collaborative process for defining
rangelands and forests and their overlap (if

• Agreement on operational definitions
Current Participants:
• Roundtable on Sustainable Forests
   • Core Group expressed support and asked
   their Technical Work Group to participate in
   the Project Committee
• FGDC Sustainable Forest Data Working
• FGDC Vegetation Subcommittee
• FGDC Sample Inventory and Monitoring of
Natural Resources and the Environment
(SIMNRE) Working Group
FGDC Sustainable Forest Data Working Group
Responsible for implementing the MOU signed by:
• Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service
• Forest Service
• National Agricultural Statistics Service
• Natural Resources Conservation Service
• Department of Defense
• Bureau of Indian Affairs
• Bureau of Land Management
• National Park Service
• U.S. Geological Survey
• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
• Office of Policy Analysis, Department of the Interior
• National Aeronautics and Space Administration
FGDC Sustainable Forest Data Working Group

The MOU states that "Agencies will work
together to resolve data issues that are beyond
the means or jurisdiction of any single agency,
avoid future inconsistencies and
incompleteness in data coverage, and
otherwise coordinate data activities as
appropriate to their missions and consistent
with their statutory responsibilities."
FGDC Sustainable Forest Data Working Group

Is setting up project committees for
• Definition of rangeland and forests
• Fragmentation
• A National Strategy for Monitoring Human
Community and Economic Indicators
• Taxonomy and measures for non-timber forest
products and services

Hope to have agreements in time for 2008
FGDC Sample Inventory and Monitoring of
Natural Resources and the Environment
(SIMNRE) Working Group

• Coordinated the Oregon Demonstration

• Developed a proposal for coordinating
inventory efforts and definitions
FGDC SIMNRE Working Group

Cooperating agencies
• Natural Resources Conservation Service
• Forest Service
• National Agricultural Statistics Service
• U.S. Geological Survey
• Environmental Protection Agency
• Bureau of Land Management

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