UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA COOPERATIVE EXTENSION

 

Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook | Third Edition


Resource Objectives

Resource objectives state specific attributes of natural resource conditions that management will strive to accomplish, the area or location where this will occur, and the time frame. Resource objectives must be site-specific, measurable and attainable statements of the desired resource attributes. Qualities or attributes of good objectives are SMART (adapted from Adamcik et al. 2004):

S - Specific - They describe what will be accomplished, focusing on limiting factors, and identifying the range of acceptable change from the present to the proposed condition.

M - Measurable - The change between present and proposed condition must be quantifiable and measurable.

A - Achievable - They can be achieved within a designated time period and in accord with resource capability. The time period may be in calendar time and/or may incorporate timing in relation to floods or droughts.

R - Related/Relevant - They are related in all instances to the land use plan goals and relevant to current or planned management practices. Thus, they must be worthy of the cost of the management needed to achieve them and the monitoring needed to track them.

T - Trackable or Time-specific - They must be trackable over time and must include a definite timeframe and location for achievement, monitoring and evaluation.

For examples of well worded objectives, see Appendix E - Characteristics of Good Objectives.


1991 photo of Susie Creek with poor riparian conditions from season long grazing year after year
Figure 10. Improvement with spring and fall (cool season) use occurred on Susie Creek, Nevada, which was grazed until 1991 with annual hot-season use by cow-calf pairs.
1999 photo of Susie Creek with improved management(shorter duration in either spring or fall).
By 1999, spring and fall (cool-season) grazing by cow-calf pairs allowed willow recovery.
2007 photo of Susie Creek with improved management(shorter duration in either spring or fall).
By 2007, beaver occupied the reach,
2012 photo of Susie Creek with improved management(shorter duration in either spring or fall).
and by 2012 recovery is transitioning the area to cattails,
2014 photo of Susie Creek with improved management(shorter duration in either spring or fall).
and by 2014, a meadow.
2017 photo of Susie Creek with improved management(shorter duration in either spring or fall).
Resilience in 2017 was based on riparian functions and plant species that grow up through deposited sediment.
2017 photo of Susie Creek with improved management(shorter duration in either spring or fall).
While the changes here were not all predicted, Objectives about riparian stabilizers would have focused management for return of riparian functions.

The scale for objectives should match the scale and focus of the planned management and the timeline for making management decisions. Some objectives should reflect landscape-scale questions such as: Are pinyon and/or juniper trees encroaching? Is distribution of invasive weeds expanding? Is the landscape becoming more homogeneous? Other objectives should focus on important critical areas or key areas such as important species on a large or important ecological site (See Appendix F - Scales in Monitoring). All objectives should track from the issues through the planned management and into the use of monitoring information for adaptive management.

Since the success or failure of adaptive management is determined by tracking changes in resources over time, objectives must be measurable attributes of the resources that are directly affected by the management actions. For example, for livestock grazing management, plant species composition or community structure is appropriate to describe a desired plant community within the potential of a specific ecological site. These resource characteristics respond directly to livestock use and are sensitive to changes in grazing management. Likewise, riparian characteristics, such as willows and amount of streambanks dominated by stabilizing species on a specific stream reach, are resource attributes that can be directly affected by livestock use and respond to management changes in many settings. It is paramount that the selected resource objectives be site-specific, within the site and state's capabilities, and clearly predicted from planned livestock grazing or other management. After crossing an ecological or geomorphic threshold, it is not reasonable to base an objective on the previous state without significant investment (and often risk) associated with active restoration; that is, not just a change in management.

Objectives should be quantitative statements of desired future conditions based upon the capabilities and limitations of the ecological site. Desired future conditions could include such resource attributes as vegetation, soil and water quality. Desired plant community phase is a quantitative expression of the plant community that exists or may exist on a specific site and that management actions are designed to maintain or produce. The desired plant community phase must be within the site's current state unless active restoration is applied.

Usually the desired plant community phase will be achieved and maintained through reasonably applied management actions. In places (almost everywhere) where vegetation is expected to continue to change through time or cycle because of disturbances, such as periodic fire (or vegetation management that replaces the role of fire) followed by plant succession, the desired plant community phase is dynamic. It can be expressed as an approximate proportion of the landscape in various stages of the cycle and/or expressed as a range of conditions that ensures resilience after disturbance. State and transition model concepts can be used to ensure that vegetation represent sustainable resilience of ecological processes; that is, plant communities that resist transition across ecological thresholds. Expressly describing disturbance regimes helps to convey the dynamic nature of rangeland vegetation at an appropriate spatial and temporal scale. Desired future condition is analogous to desired future plant community phase, but has a broader perspective including other measurable resource attributes or features in addition to the vegetation resource (e.g., channel width, width/depth ratio, soil quality, etc.).


Photo version of a state and transition model from an ecological site description.
Figure 11. A STM describes alternative states (black boxes), processes and mechanisms (e.g. 2.1a) that cause plant community changes (pathways) to phases within states (photos), maintenance of a current state (e.g. 2.3b), transitions between states (e.g.T2A), and restoration toward a previous state (e.g. R3A). See Appendix B - Ecological Sites.