Colorado State University

11/19/2019 | News release | Archived content

Dinosaur National Monument unites CSU’s “range” of expertise

'We knew we needed a diverse skillset and knowledge base in order to understand all facets of rangeland ecosystems and mesh different aspects of these disciplines,' Spaak said. 'We had a lot of conversations about who might be the most viable institutional partner, and CSU came up repeatedly.'

Spencer had been working at the monument for several years and said she saw how her own education prepared her to oversee this project.

'I took range classes, grass identification, and rangeland monitoring classes within my ecological restoration focus, and these classes were the best help in understanding different metrics and monitoring techniques for rangelands,' Spencer said. 'Who knew I would be in charge of a National Park Service range program years later?'

Spaak and Spencer recruited Paul Meiman, a rangeland faculty member who recently relocated from CSU to the University of Nevada Reno, and then asked Jablonski to lead the overall assessment that would provide an independent evaluation for the monument.

Ecological referees

The project utilized a qualitative assessment called 'Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health,' which was developed over 15 years ago by a group of rangeland experts from several federal agencies. IIRH has been used in more than 30,000 locations nationwide, by the Bureau of Land Management and USDA Forest Service and less frequently on NPS lands.

IIRH compares current land conditions with historic references established by the Natural Resource Conservation Service. With 45 locations to assess across the monument, Jablonski said he knew he needed a good team of specialists who could uphold scientific objectivity.

'Our role is to be referees, just calling it as we see it.' Jablonski said. 'We can then fairly determine the biotic, hydrologic, and soil health of each location and across the monument as a whole, and let the NPS take it from there in terms of management decisions.'