Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Natural Resources

Department name when degree awarded

Range Science


G. Allen Rasmussen


How does one person manage and monitor a half million acres of rangelands towards a sustainable future? Through a journey that begins with the understanding of sustainability, I explore the monitoring concept, two -of its applications, and summarize with an emphasis on the art and science of management. Sustainability is a concept that confuses many managers because it is so complex. However, if one considers adaptability as the complement to sustainability, and realizes that an adaptable organism is a sustainable organism, then a manager can relate because the emphasis shifts from that of stability for the future to that of uncertainty for today. The need for monitoring becomes self-evident as it is used to observe the environment and warn people against the presence of variables thought to be harmful.

Interestingly, professionals who monitor rangelands have not adopted statistical power analysis to aid in change detection. Moreover, range professionals do not have many tools to monitor a half million acres in a statistically and biologically meaningful way. I explored the role of power analysis in evaluating range trend data. In addition, I tested a low aerial photography method for monitoring vegetation cover across rangeland landscapes.

The investigations revealed that when monitoring is used as a feedback loop, the information acquired would likely facilitate adaptability and therefore sustainability of resources and people. However, most monitoring programs offer limited information of low statistical power at an inappropriate scale. Therefore, monitoring information should be used with ancillary scientific information to direct decisions, not drive them. We will continue to rely upon both the art and science of management to keep us following a path towards sustainability.