Rangeland and Forest Range
Range is herein defined in the original, classic, and strict interpretation of the term as native (or naturalized) grazing land. Range is used to designate lands supporting non-domesticated species of plants forming communities (ie. natural vegetation) that are managed primarily by extensive and ecological (vs. intensive and agronomic) means. Range is natural pasture; grazing land more or less managed as a natural ecosystem. Range (when used as a noun) is a category of land and its vegetation based on and designated by the use to which it is put: grazing and/or browsing. Range is not a use; it is the adjective in this context that modifies the purpose, practices, products, etc. of the land and its resources which are, in a word, grazing (generic for eating of plant leaves, stems, buds, mast by animals). Range, though not a use, is a kind of land designated or distinguished (defined) by the use that is made of it: grazing or browsing. It is not a kind of land that is defined by the kind, form, or type of vegetation it supports because range can apply to all kinds of vegetation (plant communities) and life-forms therein, including non-vascular plants (eg. lichen), as long as they are used or subject to use by grazing or browsing animals.
The American Society of Range Management (the original name of what is now the Society for Range Management) “was created in 1947
to foster advancement in the science and art of grazing land management, to promote progress in the conservation and greatest sustained use of forage and soil resources, to stimulate discussion and understanding of scientific and practical range and pasture problems, to provide a medium for the exchange of ideas and facts among society members and with allied technologists and to encourage professional improvement of its members.
“Persons shall be eligible for membership who are interested in or engaged in practicing range or pasture management or animal husbandry; administering grazing land; or teaching, or conducting research, or engaged in extension activities in range or pasture management or related subjects” (banner page of Journal of Range Management for a number of years).
It is clear from the original objectives or goals of the American Society of Range Management that the primal emphasis, the original intent and founding vision, of the Society was on grazing land and not the distinction or specificity of native, natural, or naturalized vegetation in contrast to domestic, introduced, or tame plants. In the original mission for which the Society was created the word “pasture” appeared equally with the word “range”. When the word “management” was used it applied the same number of times with “range” and “pasture”, which were always used together (“range and pasture”), or with the all-inclusive generic term of “grazing land”. The emphasis was clearly on the soil as a basic resource and the sustainable forage crop (native or domestic) for animal production.
This is also clear beyond any question from the published history of the Society for Range Management (Wasser et al.. 1987). In formation of the Society the Organization Committee chaired by Fred G. Renner had responsibility for such actions as developing objectives, writing a constitution and by-laws, coming up with a society name, and “studing the scope of the organization (especially, whether or not pasture workers should be included)” (Wasser et al., 1987, p. 1). That pasture specialists were “included” is obvious from the objectives and qualifications for membership quoted above in their entirety. Furthermore, while the founders consistently referred to themselves as “range men” excerpts from letters mailed by the organizers to potential members routinely included such phrases as “an organization of range and pasture men” (W.T. Chapline and W.L. Dutton, 5 August, 1947), “an understanding of range and pasture lands” (Joe F. Pechanec, 17 July, 1947), and “conservation of range and pasture lands” (J.C. Dykes, 2 January, 1948). “Grassland” and “grassland management” also appeared in some of this early correspondence and it was apparent from the usage that this could be either natural or agronomic grassland (Wasser et al., 1987, ps. 53, 54, 55).
One obvious, politically-wise reason for inclusion of tame or domestic (= agronomic) grazing lands along with range was that there was some strong organized opposition from some members of such existing scientific organizations as the American Society of Agronomy, Society of American Foresters, and the American Society of Animal Production. “[S]ome individuals made strenuous efforts to block the formation of a separate society” (Wasser et al., 1987, p. 1). Inclusion of agronomic or introduced pasture and forest range as well as rangeland was both politically astute and consistent with a developing policy that the Society should be a “democratic organization” with membership open to ranchers and lay people as well as professional range managers and scientists (Wasser et al., 1987, p. 3).
The convention of pairing side-by-side the sister disciplines and agricultural arts of Range Management and Pasture Management and consideration of all grazing lands as a general body of knowledge was adopted in what is generally regarded as the “first range management textbook”, Range and Pasture Management (Sampson, 1923). In fact, in his preface Sampson referred generically to “pasture problems”, “pasture livestock”, “pasture lands”, and “pasture management” in contexts in which it was obvious that “pasture” was synonymous for all lands used for grazing (versus his use in the restrictive and distinctive meanings in which he distinguished “management of range and pasture lands”). On the second page of the body of his text Sampson (1923, p.4) distinguished “range and pasture lands” under the general heading of “pasture lands”, but he did not define or differentiate these two general forms or kinds of grazing lands. In his last textbook, Range Management – Principles and Practices, Sampson (1952, p. 4) did distinguish range from pasture defining range as “naturally vegetated” (and also “large” and “mostly unfenced lands”) and pasture as “improved, irrigated grazing lands in the West and those in the Midwest and East that receive abundant rainfall and that are generally fertilized and seeded to domesticated forage plants [and] are ordinarily fenced”. Sampson (1923, p.4) concluded that paragraph with, “In this book ‘range’ and ‘pasture’ are used synonymously.”
When the founding fathers of the American Society of Range Management included both range and pasture (as used in the restricted and distinct meanings) and elected to advance the science and art of all grazing lands they followed the convention of their times and the tradition of their newly emergent profession. Even though they faced—and met squarely—political exigencies the Society policy of including all grazing lands was not mere cynical politics. It also served as the basis for joint cooperation among these various organizations and even with outside ones such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science as suggested in some of the correspondence that led up to formation of the American Society of Range Management.
This tradition is still very much a part of the Society as evidenced by the memorandum of understanding and even joint meetings between the Society for Range Management and American Forage and Grassland Council. Entry of the SRM into membership with the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology is another example of this long-standing cooperation with fellow scientific organizations dedicated to management of natural resources for food and fiber production.
The joint range-pasture (= grazing land) convention is also still in use by governmental conservation agencies as for example in the most recent grazing compendium, National Range and Pasture Handbook (Natural Resources Conservation Service, Grazing lands Technology Institution, 1997).
Grazing land (= grazingland) has generally been used with no apparent need for definition. (A note on syntax: historically, terms like rangeland, rangemen, livestock, grazingland, and forestland have been written alternatively as one word or two, the latter generally being the older convention.). Grazingland was not included in either of the first two editions of the SRM Glossary of Terms Used in Range Management but was included in the third and fourth editions in which it was defined as:
“A collective term that includes all lands having plants harvestable by grazing without reference to land tenure, and other land uses, management, or treatment practices” (Jacoby, 1989), and “Any vegetated land that is grazed or that has the potential to be grazed by animals [it is not obvious what besides “animals” can graze]” (Bedell, 1998).
The more recently published glossary entitled, "an international trminology for grazing lands and grazing animals" (Allen et al, 2011) defined grazing land as follows: "Any vegetated land that is grazed or has the potential to be grazed by animals (domestic or wild). This term is all-inclusive and covers all kinds and types of land that can be grazed". Consistent with definitions in the SRM Glossary (Jacoby, 1989; Bedell, 1998), Allen et al. (2011) defined rangeland as: "Land on which the indigenous vegetation (climax or sub-climax) is predominately grasses, grass-like plants, forbs or shrubs that are grazed or have the potential to be grazed, and which is used as a natural ecosystem for the production of grazing livestock and wildlife". Allen et al. (2011) defined grazable forestland thusly" "Forestland that produces, or at least periodically, understory (understorey) vegetation that can be grazed. Forage is indigenous or, if introduced, it is managed as though ti were indigenous" Grazable forestland was cross-referenced to rangeland thereby indicating that these two terms were "paired" or "sister" grazing use-based designations of land with indigenous vefetation. The term, range, was not included in the terminology provided in Allen et al. (2011), but definition of range in the SRM Glossary (Bedell, 1998) was, again consistent with Allen et al. (2011), and stated in part: "Land supporting indigenous vegetation that either is grazed or that has the potential to be grazed, and is managed as a natural ecosystem. Range includes ...grazable forestland..." Careful comparison of definitions in Allen et al. (2011) and Bedell (1998) made it incontroverably clear that range encompassed rangeland and grazable forestland as the two major or most general groups of grazing land made up of indigenous vegetation".
The Nationl Range and Pasture Handbook defined grazing land as:
“(1) Collective term used by NRCS for rangeland, pastureland, grazed forest land, native and naturalized pasture, hayland, and grazed cropland. Although grazing is generally a predominate use, the term is used independent of any use. (2) Land used primarily for production of forage plants maintained or manipulated primarily through grazing management. Includes all lands having plants harvestable by grazing without reference to land tenure, other land uses, management, or treatment practices.” Natural Resources Conservation Service, Grazing Lands Technology Institute (1997, Glossary-26)
The most thorough definition of “grazing land “ is perhaps that of Vallentine (1990, p. 7): “all land areas devoted to the production of forage from native or introduced plants and harvested directly by grazing animals”.
Interestingly, and probably the most correct in strict scientific usage, Vallentine (1990, p. 7) specified that distinction between native plants or natural vegetation and introduced, domesticated, agronomic, or tame plants was misleading when dealing most precisely with grazing lands:
“Use of the terms wild, tame, artificial, synthetic, and natural when applied to pasture is unreliable in projecting site adaptation, longevity, and even usefulness of forage plant species, and the combinations or variety of forage stands they comprise. The development of improved cultivars of both native and introduced species seems to make such terms almost redundant”.
These are words of wisdom that come from a lifetime of work and study in the professions of Range Management and Pasture Agronomy (Pasture Management). The message they deliver is completely consistent with the foresight of the founders of the organization devoted to Range Management but inclusive of “pasture lands” and “pasture men” so as to advance “the science and art of grazing land management”.
It should also be observed that current members of the Society for Range Management who get “hung up” with the incessant use of rangeland (even when the more precise generic term is range so as to include forest range as well as rangeland) and those who find fault with the use of the all-inclusive term of grazing land, are the ones in violation of conventional and traditional scientific usage and the founding principle of the Society. Based on strict interpretation of terms, they are less correct than the ones whom they incorrectly seek to correct.
Obviously the distinction between the native vegetation of range and the introduced forage species of domesticated, agronomic, more intensively managed pasture is necessary when the former are under consideration and the latter are largely omitted (as in this collection). Even under this situation the distinction is not 100% as evidenced by inclusion in this set of cover types some that are “managed as if native”. This is illustrated in the SRM publication, Rangeland Cover Types of the United States (Shiflet, 1994), in which even an agronomic grass, Tall Fescue SRM 804, was described as a “rangeland cover type”.
For the meaning of range and its use by rangemen over time, readers are referred to the various editions of the Glossary of Terms Used in Range Management published by the Society for Range Management (Huss, 1964; Kothmann, 1974; Jacoby, 1989; Bedell, 1998). As used herein, range includes all natural resources of the land: soil, landforms, and water as well as vegetation. Range ecosystem includes all components from light energy and nutrients to microorganisms to man, a top-level consumer and the ecosystem manipulator.
traditional usage and the historic connotation, extensively managed grazing
grounds include those supporting introduced (non-native) forage and browse species
that are managed largely by ecological manipulation. These introduced species
can be either: 1) domestic (= agronomic, tame pasture) plants that are adaptable
to be managed as if native or 2) alien range (non-domesticated) plants from
other continents that survive (often thrive) under range practices. (See Vallentine,
1990, ps. 7-10). Range types in the current publication included those plant
communities comprised of inadvertently introduced alien species that have completely
naturalized and formed "man-made"
(anthropogenic) vegetation amenable to standard Range Management principles
and practices. The best-known example is the California annual grassland type.
Also in this category of non-indigenous range are lands drastically altered
by human action like forest- or field-cropping practices that support a mixture
of native and introduced (usually "escaped") species under low-input,
ecological management. The state of native vs. naturalized plant communities
is irrelevant because the vegetation is permanent in human time-scale and under
the persisting management regimes. Examples include “go-back lands” (= old-fields,
abandoned farmland), cut-over forests, heavily grazed woodlots, and coniferous
forest plantations, (especially the understory).
As the general
term for natural pasture, range has been defined since the second edition of
A Glossary of Terms Used in Range Management (Kothmann, 1974) so as to
consist of two major groups:
Forest Range (Grazable Woodland) is of two basic forms based on permanence or persistence of the grazable/browsable understory:
It is clear that—
as historically defined by the Society for Range Management— precise usage of
the term range types (range cover types) includes both 1) rangeland types and
2) forest range types. This convention was both conformed to and violated by
the Society for Range Management in its Rangeland Cover Types of the United
States (Shiflet, 1994). The SRM did conform to it's own usage in this publication
to the extent that it did not include major forest range (= grazable woodland)
types such as those of either the eastern deciduous forest or western coniferous
forest cover types given in the companion publication by the Society of American
Foresters, Forest Cover Types of the United States and Canada (Eyre,
The SRM violated
it's terminology in Shiflet (1994) which it included such cover types as juniper-pinyon
woodland, aspen woodland, and mixed hardwood and pine. These certainly are not
rangeland if the SRM abided by its own definition. If, however, these range
types occur as savanna or shrubland instead of woodland forms they are rangeland.
Shiflet (1994, p. ix) noted that "many existing vegetation types can be
characterized as both forestland or rangeland". Thus the distinction between
rangeland cover types and forest range cover types is a strained exercise, a
trivial pursuit. This is so much so that it raises the question as to why bother
to distinguish between woodland or forest types and rangeland types. This comes
down to the most fundamental question, "Why use the term rangeland cover
types at all?" Confusion could be avoided altogether by simply using the
shorter, more general, and all-inclusive term of range cover types. Then of
course Shiflet (1994) would be incomplete because none of the major forest range
types appeared there.
In the current
collection, no distinction was made between rangeland and forest range cover
types except as occurred under the headings arranged by biomes (ie. forest and
woodland biomes or formations are forest range cover types; all others are rangeland