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Monitoring and Assessment of Mesquite-Encroached Rangelands

06-17-2020 - The encroachment of honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) – a small to medium height shrub or tree – in North American rangelands has many important negative socioeconomic and ecological consequences (e.g., reduced livestock production and altered biogeochemical cycles). As a result, multiple strategies have been devised to reduce the cover and density of those woody plants, including prescribed burning, mechanical clearing, and herbicide application. NRCS primarily uses the last of these methods. However, before herbicides can be sprayed, the Agency needs to determine the location of modern structures, cultural resources, and ephemeral streams in order to exclude those features from the herbicide application. At the present time, NRCS accomplishes this through field work, which takes a significant amount of money and time and, consequently, overly expensive and time-consuming cultural resources clearances. In addition, it is unclear to what extent woody plant cover is actually reduced through herbicide spraying, because the effectiveness of brush management is not currently being assessed. As a result, it is also unclear to what extent the agency''s efforts are actually paying off. The overall goal of this project is to address these issues by developing a cost-effective and timely methodological framework for 1) identifying modern structures, cultural resources, and ephemeral streams in mesquite-encroached rangelands and 2) monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of mesquite management efforts through herbicide spraying. The framework will help NRCS reduce the costs and time of conservation planning and management of mesquite-encroached rangelands while at the same time allowing the Agency to evaluate the effectiveness of its mesquite control efforts.