The University of Arizona

Range research in the far western United States: the first generation.

J.A. Young


The scientific study of rangelands in the western United States, started with the first collection of natural history specimens in the 18th century. Gradually over the 19th century, a basic catalog of the plants, animals, and geography of the far west was assembled. After the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was organized, scientists were sent to the western ranges on fact-finding missions designed to assess the existing range livestock industry and its potential. At the turn of the 19th to the 20th century a few visionary scientist began to conduct actual experiments in rangeland environments. The Forest Service, USDA, was established in 1905, and what had been Forest Reserves from the U. S. Department of Interior (USDI) were transferred to the new agency. It was responsible for sustainable timber product and watershed management on millions of acres of wild lands. The Forest Service soon discovered that livestock grazed on four-fifths of the National Forest land and it was estimated that 85% of these rangelands were over-grazed and subject to accelerated erosion. The Forest Service started preliminary research on rangelands in 1907 and formally started an Office of Grazing Studies in 1910. Beginning with the Great Basin Experiment Station in 1912, a series of stations were developed by the Forest Service. As agricultural experiment stations developed at Land Grant colleges in the western states, state sponsored research on rangelands increased in importance.



land productivity;Rocky Mountain region;public domain;history;range condition;sustainability;sheep;overgrazing;range management;rangelands

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