Teaching Ranchers to Use Google Earth Pro as a Land Management Tool
Western landowners and range managers often oversee hundreds or even thousands of acres of range. Keeping tabs on the vegetation, water resources, and invasive species over these vast expanses can be daunting. Yet knowing the condition of the resources and grazing effects is essential to maintaining healthy rangelands and viable livestock operations. In addition, after implementing changes in grazing practices, managers need to be able to monitor the effects of those changes to determine whether they are achieving their objectives for production and rangeland health.
Today’s Geographic Information System (GIS) technology offers tools to help manage and monitor private and public rangelands more efficiently. Google Earth Pro (GEP) is a free web-based program that enables users to view satellite imagery of rangeland, no matter how expansive or remote. Multiple layers of geographic information are available that can be imported to GEP, including land management boundaries and grazing allotments, fire history, core sage-grouse breeding and brood-rearing habitat, and other key wildlife habitat. Having this information at their fingertips could help ranchers manage rangelands more efficiently and sustainably. Maps also provide a valuable tool for communicating between ranchers and land management partners. Yet many landowners and even agency rangeland managers may not be aware of how to utilize GEP and GIS tools to develop land management and monitoring plans.
Oregon State University Extension and University of Idaho Extension faculty collaborated to develop an Extension course that would provide ranchers with the skillset necessary to use GEP and GIS to improve range management. To make it as convenient as possible for busy land managers to take advantage of this training, OSU and UI Extension offer the GEP/GIS course in a hybrid format that combines classroom learning with self-paced online study and field exercises. The course helps producers become familiar with available technology and how to compile information they can use to make management decisions.
Participants learn to use GEP/GIS tools to map their pastures and grazing allotments, analyze terrain when considering placement of roads, fences and water lines, and map weed infestations and treatments, for example. They also learn where to find and how to import GIS data such as fire history and core wildlife habitat that might influence their grazing management decisions. The course introduces users to INSIDE Idaho, a clearinghouse of available geospatial data. Course modules include rangeland management principles and photo monitoring techniques to help ranchers develop or improve their land management plans.
Output and Outcomes
- Increase the number of landowners and land managers in eastern Oregon and Idaho who are using GIS technologies to develop land management plans that will lead to improved rangeland health.
- Engage the next generation of ranchers through use of higher technology management tools.
Rangeland Center Members Involved
- Scott Jensen, Owyhee County Extension Educator
Partners and Sponsors
- Sergio Arispe, OSU, Malheur County
- Chris Schachtsneider, OSU Extension, Umatilla and Morrow counties
- Letitia Henderson, OSU Extension, Baker and Union counties
- Vanessa Schroeder, OSU Extension, Harney County
- Dustin Johnson, OSU Extension, Harney County
- USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture