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November 16, 2005
In Reply Refer To:
     4400 (WO220) P
Instruction Memorandum No. 2006-047
Expires:  09/30/2007
To:              All Field Officials
From:          Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning
Subject:      Transmittal of Technical Reference 1734-6, Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health, Version 4                                                                    


Program Area:  Standards and Guidelines and other Assessments for Rangeland Health

Purpose:  This Instruction Memorandum (IM) issues a new release (Version 4) of a qualitative assessment protocol to be used for interpreting indicators of rangeland health. Use of this technical reference will allow for more consistent interpretations of rangeland health indicators included in the protocol, making assessment results more consistent.  This tool can also improve the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) ability to communicate with the public about the components of rangeland health and assist in ascertaining whether Standards for Rangeland Health are being achieved.  Copies of the Technical Reference are being sent to each Field Office (FO). Additional copies of this technical reference are available from the Printed Materials Distribution Center at the National Science and Technology Center or can be printed from the following web site: http://www.blm.gov/nstc/library/techref.htm.
Policy/Action:  All States are to continue conducting assessments and evaluations of land health standards in accordance with the policy provided in Manual Handbook H-4180.1. FO’s are to discontinue use of Version 3 and are now required to use the protocol in Version 4 when conducting an assessment using Technical Reference 1734-6 Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health. This does not imply that assessments done with Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health, Version 3 are no longer valid. Interpretations made with Version 3 will be consistent with those made with Version 4, provided that the same reference information is used. 
This technique is not to be used as a monitoring tool (e.g., trend), nor is it to be used as the sole source of information to make grazing or other management changes. It can be used in rangeland health assessments to assist in ascertaining if appropriate Standards for Rangeland Health are being met. The Intended Applications section on pages 1-2 of Version 4 should be closely reviewed to insure that this protocol is appropriately applied. Within the flexibility allowed by the protocol, States may modify indicators in the Technical Reference if necessary to conform to their approved Standards and Guidelines for Rangeland Health.
Background:  This technical reference and the procedures described within were developed by rangeland and soil ecologists from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Agricultural Research Service, the United States Geological Survey, and the BLM.  Scientific research provided the basis for the selection of the indicators used to evaluate rangeland health.  Development of the protocol was initiated in 1994 and the various versions of the protocol have been field tested at numerous locations throughout the West. Version 3 was published in 2000 and has been extensively used by BLM FO’s in rangeland health assessments.
Version 4 is the second published edition of this technique and it follows the recommendations in a peer reviewed paper published in the Journal of Range Management in 2002. The 17 indicators have remained the same from Version 3 to Version 4, however the basis for determining deviation from the normal range and variability of each indicator is now documented in a reference sheet. In Version 3, the ecological site description and/or ecological reference areas were the standard for comparison. The reference sheet in Version 4 uses these information sources along with other sources of information, including the knowledge of local resource specialists and land managers, to describe the expected condition and range of variability for each indicator.
Version 4 provides land managers and resource specialists with a tool for conducting initial assessments of soil and site stability, hydrologic function, and biotic integrity. It requires users to be knowledgeable and experienced in the areas where the technique is applied. Training in the use of this protocol is strongly recommended and can be obtained by taking the “Interpreting and Measuring Indicators of Rangeland Health (1730-37)” course offered by the BLM’s National Training Center. Resource specialists trained in the application of Version 3 are encouraged to participate in a one-day Version 4 refresher course which should be available in the spring of 2006. 
Timeframe:  This IM is effective immediately.
Budget Impact:  The effect of this IM on the budget is minimal; most FO’s have either used or reviewed Version 3 since it was released in 2000.
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected:  Manual 4400 - Rangeland Inventory, Monitoring, and Evaluation is affected by this policy.
Coordination: All FO’s were provided an opportunity to review and comment on the draft Version 3 in July 1999 (see Information Bulletin No. 99-186).  An external peer review was conducted in 1999 on Version 3 and in 2002 on Version 4.

Contact:  If you have any questions regarding this protocol, please contact Mike Pellant, NevadaState Office (duty location Idaho State Office), at 208-373-3823, or Dick Mayberry, Rangeland Resources Group, (WO 220), at 202-452-7750.
Signed by:                                                            
Authenticated by:
Thomas H. Dyer                                                   
Robert M. Williams
Deputy Assistant Director                  
Policy and Records Group,WO-560
Renewable Resources and Planning

Last updated: 10-21-2009