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Rangeland Ecology & Watershed Management|Ecosystem Science & Management

Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management (REWM)

Rangelands are lands "on which the indigenous vegetation (climax or natural potential) is predominantly grasses, grass-like plants, forbs, or shrubs and is managed as a natural ecosystem. If plants are introduced, they are managed similarly" (Society for Range Management definition). Approximately 40 percent of the U.S. and 60 percent of the world's land area is classified as rangelands. These lands are often referred to as grasslands, prairie, tundra, savannas, shrublands, and deserts which together make up rangelands. Rangelands are complex ecosystems known for their unpredictable weather, varying topography, and a wide array of soils, wildlife habitat, and forage for domestic and wild herbivores. Rangeland managers must have the education, skills, and common sense to integrate information about the climate, topography, soils, plants, animals, watersheds, and land uses into usable management plans. Their decisions will influence present and future production of goods and services from rangelands such as food, fiber, water, recreation, wildlife, minerals, oil/natural gas, timber, open space, and many other ecosystem goods and services.

Understanding how rangeland ecosystems function and developing skills to manage these lands for sustainable provision of multiple products is the focus of the rangeland science profession. Water is increasingly becoming a limiting factor for many semi-arid regions of the world; therefore, management techniques to promote water yield and water quality is a growing focus of rangeland and forest management. Improving wildlife habitat, biodiversity, recreation, and aesthetics are growing in importance as public interest increases. Many rangelands are or have been the site of mineral extraction requiring development of innovative reclamation and restoration ecology techniques. Strategies to assure the ongoing economic viability of ranching enterprises involve balancing livestock, hunting, and eco-tourism enterprises. These are the types of things we focus on in our rangeland ecology and watershed management teaching, research, and extension programs.

Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management - Undergraduate Programs

Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management (REWM) is involved in a variety of activities designed to help meet our major goal-- "helping people solve range management and natural resource problems." Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management is accredited by the Society for Range Management (SRM).

As a range student, you'll learn about a variety of disciplines. In addition to rangeland ecology and watershed management, you will complete courses in botany, ecology, recreation, wildlife habitat management, and forestry. You'll also study economics, soils, mathematics, chemistry, and animal science. Range courses include studies on the ecology, use, and management of rangelands; range improvement techniques; and management practices to achieve land management objectives.

Managing rangeland requires a complete understanding of the water cycle and how users perceive water resources should be allocated. Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management offers you a unique opportunity to blend your rangeland ecology background with courses in wildland watershed management and hydrology. These then serve as the background with courses in stream and wetland restoration, fisheries, and chemistry, and can lead to being certified as a hydrologist. This exciting option has proven successful for many students in their quest for employment as managers of natural resources and the environment.

Rangeland resource managers spend much of their time working outside, but also work in the office. Many hours are spent communicating with people. Good resource managers relate well with others, learn from the knowledge and experience of others, and share their knowledge.

Nine REWM concentrations are offered to cover the diverse, ever-changing field of rangeland ecology and watershed management.

  • Range livestock management
  • Rangeland habitat management
  • Rangeland ecology natural resources
  • Disturbed land reclamation/restoration ecology
  • Wildland watershed management
  • Range hydrology
  • Range improvements
  • Range business management

In addition, a concentration in the School of Environment and Natural Resources is offered.

All REWM graduates exceed the minimum standards for Rangeland Management Specialist positions with federal agencies.  By appropriate course selection within the elective hours, students will also meet requirements for additional professional work, including state and local government, disturbed land reclamation, consulting, and the livestock and supporting services industry.

Students and faculty in rangeland ecology and watershed management participate together in many activities, such as the international Society for Range Management, plant identification and range exam teams, Rangeland Cup, Range Club, Restoration Outreach and Research (ROaR) Club, and the Soil and Water Conservation Society Student Chapter. The Range Club coordinates business and social activities and sponsors guest speakers.

Rangeland ecology and watershed management classes are conducted both on and off campus. Facilities in the College of Agriculture include expansive herbaria and research labs housing studies on feeding behavior, disturbed land reclamation, restoration ecology, range ecology, stable isotope research, and watershed management. Five instrumented field research stations and watersheds along an elevational gradient from the plains to the sub-alpine facilitate study of the interrelations of the aquatic-riparian-upland environment with changing land and water use.

Wyoming's diverse rangeland, including plains, grasslands, mountains, deserts, foothills, and shrublands, provides abundant opportunities for study. Field trips to neighboring states and countries give students a broad perspective on resource management.

Rangeland Ecology & Watershed Management Courses


If you have comments or questions, please contact us at:

Department of Ecosystem Science & Management
College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
University of Wyoming
Department 3354
1000 E. University Ave.
Laramie, Wyoming 82071
Phone: 307-766-2263
Fax: 307-766-6403

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