The University of Arizona

Range Education in the 21st Century: Striking the Balance to Maintain a Relevant Profession

Laurie B. Abbott, Karen L. Launchbaugh, Susan Edinger-Marshall


Range science education programs strive to keep pace with the changing needs of the range profession and to ensure that range graduates are knowledgeable, skilled, and able to address contemporary, complex problems unique to rangelands. Today, range education programs face many challenges in our ability to meet the demands and needs of our profession and society. First, our capacity to meet the demands for range science graduates has been diminished by 1) elimination or restructuring of academic rangeland science programs, 2) reduced numbers of range-trained faculty teaching rangeland courses, and 3) limited public
awareness of degrees and careers in rangeland science and management. Second, range education programs are challenged to strike a balance between retaining traditional basics and modernizing curriculum to include contemporary concepts and technologies. Third, range science graduates need to understand the current social, political, and economic context of resource management, including global change issues that are of paramount concern to society. We propose multiple approaches to meet these challenges: 1) perform needs assessments with diverse stakeholders to ensure that range education programs are relevant to society’s needs and address the future of the profession; 2) find innovative approaches to strike the educational balance between fundamental concepts, practical field experiences, and mastery of technical and interpersonal skills; 3) collaborate across institutional boundaries to share educational resources and incorporate course formats that meet the diverse needs of today’s students; 4) examine and align professional qualifications, educational standards, and curriculum by defining learning outcomes and core competencies needed by well-trained range professionals; and 5) communicate the unique features of the rangeland
profession that solidify its position among the disciplinary pillars of natural resource science and management.

Full Text: