Rangeland Analysis Platform: Zoom In On The Range
A new way to view and analyze rangeland in the western half of the United States combines the power of Google Earth Engine, satellite imagery and years of on-the-ground field monitoring data in a revolutionary—and free—online application.
By Marilyn Cummins | Photos By USDA NRCS
The interactive Rangeland Analysis Platform, or RAP, makes it possible for anyone to see, in customized maps and graphs, what’s happening with annual and perennial grasses, shrubs, trees and bare ground on millions of acres of rangeland from the Great Plains to the West Coast. A user can focus on a watershed, state, county or pasture; zoom in on a location the size of a baseball diamond; and analyze conditions and changes at any time from 1984 through 2017. “This new technology is revolutionary in that we’re finally able to combine what we observe on the ground with a view from space,” says Jeremy Maestas, a USDA NRCS ecologist in Oregon who helped develop RAP. He cites the example of being better able to see and address hot spots of cheatgrass invasion that can fuel bigger and more frequent wildfires if left unchecked. Ranchers can see how drought has affected the perennial forage over hundreds of acres of grazing land, or evaluate how prescribed burns worked to reduce tree cover and improve forage for livestock and wildlife.
Lead developer Brady Allred at the University of Montana partnered with USDA NRCS and the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management to create RAP, which is available for anyone to use at rangelands.app.