“Reading the Range”—Facilitating Range Monitoring in Arizona

Research Year: 

Before 2000, range monitoring workshops had been offered for several years by the University of Arizona, yet range monitoring as a standard operating procedure on Arizona ranches had been sporadically adopted. In 2000, a USDA grant “Reading the Range” was obtained and demonstration ranches for range monitoring were established with technical assistance provided. It was hoped that this practice would encourage neighboring ranches to consider implementing similar practices on their ranches. With continued funding and agency collaboration on workshops, equipment and other needs, the practice of range monitoring has steadily gained more active participants within the ranching community.

Description of Action: 

In an effort organized through the Gila County Extension director, Reading the Range monitoring data was collected collaboratively by the NRCS, US Forest Service, ranchers and their employees and family members, USFS-Rocky Mountain Research Station, private consultants, and other interested parties from August to December of 2009 on 35 ranches. Ten Extension reports (1,725 pages total) were completed in 2009 for monitoring conducted in 2007, and extensive time was spent setting up databases for all ranches to accommodate electronic data entry in the field with touchpad computers purchased in 2008 and 2009. A series of talks on various critical aspects of range management were presented at conferences and workshops for ranchers across the state in 2009.


From the original six participants enrolled in Reading the Range in 2001 on 100,000 acres, the program has expanded exponentially to now include 37 ranches encompassing 1,041,384 acres. On the Tonto National Forest, 30 percent of grazing allotments are now enrolled in Reading the Range and USFS officials recommend involvement in the program for new ranch owners. Data are being collected from 197 key areas and the results are being incorporated into NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) documents on the Tonto National Forest. The touchpad computers have been successfully integrated into range monitoring by clientele from 9 to 69 years old; among them are some who had never used a computer.

Written testimonials:

“You and your program are a treasured asset to us and others who value responsible use of the land we’re entrusted with.” --from a new participant

“Without this program I think we would be out of luck again. Each year I learn from the monitoring and appreciate the knowledge you share.” --from a continuing participant

“From my perspective I can’t thank you enough for all the work you provide here for the Tonto, not to even mention the benefits to our people for training and orientation…Your efforts are truly making a difference on the Tonto.” --from a USFS regional director of rangeland management

Conact Name: 
James E. Sprinkle
Contact E-mail: