College of Innovation & Design
Dr. Vicken Hillis
National grasslands are public lands that have diverse and critical uses. They serve as wildlife habitat, contain mineral resources, and are used recreationally. The Thunder Basin National Grassland, located in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, spans more than 500,000 acres and local ranchers rely on that acreage to feed their cattle. Effective management of these grazing lands is challenging because agency managers must balance multiple private and public objectives. Advancing rangeland policy requires an accurate understanding of previous grazing history. Even so, few long-term, quantitative records of grazing intensity on this land exist. To address this gap, we digitized physical records of four decades of grazing usage. We analyzed this data to examine variation in grazing intensity over time and space. We found that there was a steady increase in grazing intensity over time, but it fell dramatically in the early 2000s. This is an important observation that can help government agencies understand how various social and environmental factors impact grazing intensity. Application of this understanding can help create sustainable grassland policies.
Mueller, Jessica and Hillis, Vicken, "Grazing Usage Over Time and Space in the Thunder Basin Ecoregion" (2019). 2019 Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Conference. 120.