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October 2021

Newsletter Topics

RP Roundup
Strengthening RREA Programing
KS Range Management Schools
Art of the Range: Recent Episodes


Save the Date: RP Roundup
November 4, 2021
12-1:30pm Pacific Time
Zoom Link
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RP Roundup

Hosted by Livia Olsen & Sergio Aprise

Join us on Thursday, November 4 for a RP Roundup! 
12-1:30pm Pacific Time 
Zoom Link

The focus of the Roundup will be on innovative technologies for creating extension content. The presentations will focus on using audio/visual equipment, podcasting, and on using virtual reality, augmented reality, or mixed reality to generate content. Our speakers will be Dr. Colt Knight (University of Maine), Dr. Tip Hudson (Washington State University), and Dr. Levy Randolph (Kansas State University). They will be joining us for the break-out sessions after their presentations.

Strengthening RREA Programing:
A Web-Based Conference Series

By Mark Thorne
University of Hawaii-Manoa

In 1978 Congress passed the Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA) “to provide for an expanded and comprehensive extension program for forest and rangeland renewable Resources” with an authorized funding level of $30,000,000. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers the RREA program and annually allocates the congressional appropriation for the program on a formula basis to 73 land-grant institutions, while reserving a small percentage (8%) for the support of projects through the National Focus Funds initiative. Since 2002 RREA appropriations have been maintained at $4,060,000, well below the authorized limit set by congress in 1978.
While small, RREA funding is an integral component of renewable resource extension programing within land-grant institutions. Many forestry and range extension professionals have developed highly innovative and effective programs to address RREA strategic issues with these limited funds. However, their successes are not generally known outside of their respective land-grant universities. Until now few opportunities have existed for these connections to be made. This web-based conference series (webinars) provided opportunities for extension professionals to 1) strengthen and/or create new networks of colleagues; 2) develop regional and national collaborations addressing RREA strategic issues, and 3) learn innovative approaches for stakeholder education and outreach.The overall purpose of the webinar series was to increase capacity among renewable resource extension professionals through a cross-pollination of ideas, approaches, technology use, and methodologies that will lead to more informed, better served stakeholders and a stronger RREA program. 
The project team included range (Mark Thorne, Retta Bruegger, Leslie Roche, and Elise Gornish), Forestry (Kris Tiles, Adam Downing, Martha Monroe) extension professionals, along Rangelands Partnership collaborators (Barb Hutchinson, Sheila Merrigan) and IT support from the University Arizona (Dave Bogner). The RREA webinar series included nine separate sessions organized around the strategic issues identified in the 2018-2022 strategic plan, coupled to a unique or innovative programing tools or approaches, such as the use of 3-D printers or Peer to Peer learning. The project team identified two to three speakers for each webinar through surveys and reviews of RREA programs across all land-grant universities with the goal to represent the broadest diversity of professionals, programs, innovation, and geographical locations. In total, the webinars featured presentations by 26 professionals across 14 land-grant institutions. Each webinar session was advertised a month in advance to solicit registrations and gather participant data for follow-up surveys. The webinar sessions were presented live and recorded to be included on a website for future access and review by interested parties. Each session was followed by a discussion thread that allowed speakers and webinar participants to further engage and connect over the topic. 

A post-webinar survey was sent out to all participants following the first three webinars and then each subsequent webinar program. The goal of the surveys was to gauge the impact of the webinars on participant engagement, learning opportunities provided, and the capacity of natural resource extension outreach to address the RREA strategic initiatives.
Widespread Participation and International Appeal
Across all nine webinars there were 1069 registrations and 649 participants (58% of registrations). More than 59% of the participants worked in Extension while 41% worked in other fields including academia, public agencies, and private natural resource services. Nearly every land grant institution was represented across all nine webinars. Webinar three, “Engaging local Communities to restore Fire-adapted Ecosystems”, had the highest number of participants at 174 including individuals from Australia, Spain, Guatemala, Columbia, Slovakia, Canada, Brazil and Jordan.
Impact on Extension
Of the participants who worked in Extension, 42% were county or regional agents, 30.4% were state specialists, 21.4% worked in other roles, and 6.3% were Extension administrators. Participants’ primary disciplines included Range (22.2%), Forestry (20.1%), Agriculture (14.3%), Environmental Education (16.9%), Wildlife (4.2%), Recreation (< 1%), and other (21.7%).  Years of Extension service varied widely across the webinars with certain age brackets attending specific webinars. For example, 41.7% of the Extension participation in webinar four (Reaching Underserved and non-traditional Audiences) were from 0-3-year service bracket, while the 4-10, 11-20 and 21 plus brackets made up 16.7%, 8.3%, and 33.3%, respectively. On the other hand, 66.7% of the Extension participants for webinar eight (Engaging Youth in Natural Resources) came from the 4-10-year bracket but lacked 21-plus year Extension participants. Twenty-eight percent of Extension participants developed or delivered RREA programs that meet RREA initiatives, 23.9% received RREA funding for some or all programs, 11.4% had applied to the RREA Focus Funds Initiative, 9.2% partnered with someone who received RREA funding, and 27.2% did not receive RREA funds or did not know if their work was connected to RREA. The webinars provided a great benefit to 51% of Extension participants, while another 47% indicated some benefit.  Only 2.5% indicated that the webinars provided no benefit.
Webinars Were Influential
Survey respondents were asked to what extent the webinar presentations influenced how they planned to develop or deliver extension programs:
  • 54.4% gained information and planned to adopt a technique demonstrated
  • 23.4% indicated they learned something new
  • 11.7% wanted to learn more about something so they could use it
  • 5.9% indicated they already used something demonstrated in the webinars
  • 4.7% indicated that nothing changed, or they learned nothing new
  • 96.2% of respondents indicated that it was somewhat to very likely that something they heard during the webinars would enhance their existing Extension programing (3.8% not likely).
The RREA webinar series was supported by the Renewable Resources Extension Act Program through grant no. 2018-4601-28801 to the University of Hawaii from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Range Management Schools in Kansas

By Walt Fick
Kansas State University

During 2021, three Range Management Schools were held in Kansas organized by the Kansas Grazing Land Coalition. K-State Research and Extension (KSRE) has been involved on a regular basis since these schools were first started in 2000. In addition to KSRE, instructors from NRCS and the Kansas Prescribed Fire Council typically participate. A ranch visit is usually part of the school. Invited speakers and/or a rancher panel are often part of the evening schedule.  In 2021, the first school was held at the Ringneck Ranch near Tipton, KS in the Mixed Grass Prairie, on August 10-12. The Tallgrass School was held near Elmdale, KS on August 24-26.  This year a third school was added in the Shortgrass Plains of Kansas near Scott Lake. Each school had 20-26 participants. Participants included ranchers, agency employees, and college students.

Each year the organizing committee comes up with a theme for the schools. This year the theme was “Ranching to Regenerate Rangeland.” Topics in 2021 included plant physiology, plant identification, considerations in ranch/range planning, ecological sites, rangeland health and inventory, stocking rate determination, impact of precipitation on forage production, adapting my management to sustain rangeland, prescribed burning, and online tools and applications to assist range management decisions. A hands-on forage-livestock balance exercise was also conducted. Participants were taught how to determine/estimate forage production using a grazing stick. They then had to determine how many acres to provide for a given herd of cattle for 1 day. Discussion revolved around a target amount of vegetation to leave following the grazing event. An electric fence was used to allocate the acres to be grazed. A day later, a second visit was made to the site to determine how much forage remained and what plant species were being selected or avoided by the livestock. A demonstration burn was conducted at the Smoky Valley Ranch in western Kansas this year. Growing season burns are conducted in this region by the Nature Conservancy to reduce the impact of perennial threeawns. A plant identification challenge at the end of the school tests participant’s ability to recognize key plants in the area of the school.

The Range Management Schools have provided training and enhanced knowledge for individuals over the years. Repeat participation is common. Sometimes individuals go to a school given in a different part of the state to expand their knowledge and understanding of grasslands different from where they might live. Participants are charged $350 to attend the school, but most receive scholarships from donors to help offset their costs.

The Art of Range Podcast

Recent Podcast Episodes

The Art of Range Podcast provides education through conversation with some of the brightest minds in rangeland management. 
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The Rangelands Partnership is a worldwide, multidisciplinary collaboration that provides resources needed to inform public debate and decision-making regarding today's grand challenges of food security, climate adaptation, public health, environmental impacts, and economic development as they relate to rangelands around the world.

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