There's a new online tool that provides a big picture view of vegetation change over the last 35 years in the West. The University of Montana, the USDA's National Resources Conservation Service and the Bureau of Land Management joined forces to develop Rangeland Analysis Platform (RAP).
Matthew Jones, a University of Montana professor, helped develop the application. He said recent technology allowed him and his colleagues to visualize and estimate vegetation cover by putting all the data in one place.
Jones said it's important to understand how vegetation responds to human events like irrigation and grazing.
"It starts with the fact that plants really provide the foundation for sustainable wildlife habitat, profitable livestock production, clean water, and healthy soils. It's really that foundational principle," said Jones.
Jones said the app provides a new perspective for monitoring rangeland vegetation.
"It makes it easy to develop new strategies that can improve rangeland productivity and evaluate our current or past management practices, which is critical," said Jones. "And all these things are key for keeping these lands profitable and productive for future generations."
The app is free and available at rangelands.app.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.