New pocket guide details conservation planning guidelines for reducing woody encroachment in grasslands
Working Lands for Wildlife and the Great Plains Grasslands Extension Partnership recently published the “Reducing Woody Encroachment in Grasslands: A Pocket Guide for Planning and Design,” a comprehensive, science-based tool for conservation planners working to save America’s grasslands.
“This Pocket Guide was produced at the request of rangeland managers” explained Dillon Fogarty, a University of Nebraska-based scientist who led development of the guide. “In 2021, Twidwell’s Vulnerability Guide introduced new management guidelines for confronting the collapse of Great Plains grasslands due to woody encroachment. The pocket guide integrates those guidelines with a formal planning process used to deliver conservation investments in rangelands. For the first time, the pocket guide introduces formal planning guidelines for new conservation strategies, like Defend the Core, in our grasslands.”
“When we developed the pocket guide we had three big goals,” says Fogarty. “First, we wanted to provide a field-based resource for understanding what grassland risk and vulnerability to woody encroachment looks like on the landscape. Second, we wanted to outline a unified planning process to streamline adoption of new management guidelines. And third, we wanted to provide a suite of detailed management options that help managers identify how to reduce their grasslands’ risk and vulnerability to encroachment.”
The guide uses informative, easy-to-understand graphics, illustrations, and text to explain key principles around the underlying processes of woody encroachment, how seeds and seed sources make grasslands vulnerable to woody encroachment, what different phases of encroachment look like on the ground, and what rangeland planners and landowners can do to conserve, restore, and protect America’s grasslands, all informed by the latest scientific understanding of woody encroachment in grasslands.
Additionally, it includes:
“It’s all here, in one place, for the first time. In this one resource, rangeland planners and landowners have science-backed guidance that explains how woody encroachment happens, addresses how grasslands become vulnerable to woody encroachment, guides decision making through easy-to-use decision-support flow charts, and details how to implement proactive on-the-ground conservation measures for every phase of encroachment,” said Dirac Twidwell, WLFW science advisor for the Great Plains grassland biome and University of Nebraska professor.
The guide is available digitally through Working Lands for Wildlife. Limited field-ready, water- and UV-resistant hard copies are available by request from Dillon Fogarty.
“With this resource, extension across all 10 states in the Great Plains are talking about woody encroachment the same way. This pocket guide is the first product from the Great Plains Grasslands Extension Partnership,” noted Twidwell. The universities comprising the partnership include: Kansas State University, Montana State University, University of Nebraska, New Mexico State University, North Dakota State University, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M, South Dakota State University, University of Wyoming, and Colorado State University.
Major funding and support for the pocket guide was provided from USDA-NRCS Working Lands for Wildlife through Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, USDA-NRCS 4-State Woody Encroachment Initiative, USDA-NRCS West & Central National Technology Support Center, USDA-NRCS National Grazing Lands Team, USDA-NIFA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Nebraska Environmental Trust (20-139), and Nebraska Game & Parks Commission (W-125-R-2).