Remote Sensing Tools

Using Remotely Sensed Maps with the Threat Based Land Management (TBLM) Framework

The Threat Based Land Management Framework (presented in the Manager’s and Field Guide) can be applied at the pasture and ranch scale where users hand delineate (draw out) areas or polygons designating the different ecological states. Questions surrounding scale can create confusion when mapping states across an area of interest. Deciding what area is large enough to matter but small enough to manage is a persistent problem with any mapping exercise. For this process the scale at which one maps is important and should reflect the scale at which management decisions are made (see the mapping section (page 16) in the Manager’s Guide for more detail). The confusion of which scale to map at, or put more simply, where to draw the lines for the polygons, can be reduced by establishing management objectives and clear project area boundaries. To learn more about an online course that walks natural resource professionals and land owners through a process that incorporates TBLM into GIS tools, such as google earth pro, and culminates in the creation of a pasture or ranch management plan, click here. A hybrid version of this course is currently offered annually in many eastern Oregon counties. Contact your local OSU county agent for more details.

While the framework presented in the Manager’s Guide and Field Guide is best suited to the pasture scale, there is exciting ongoing work incorporating this process into remotely sensed maps. For a comprehensive list of all rangeland vegetation map products available in Oregon, visit the Oregon Explorer Natural Resources Digital library. Below we highlight a few maps that can be used in conjunction with TBLM. Remember, all remotely sensed data should be ground-truthed before applying management, and use caution when interpreting the map at small scales (hundreds of acres).

Remotely Sensed Maps: A Piece of the Puzzle

Use caution when utilizing remotely sensed maps. They are best used early in the planning process, and in combination with a boots on the ground approach. For example, remotely sensed maps should be utilized at the broadest scale for your question or management to help target where to implement a study, monitoring or management plan. They can then help inform where to go on the ground for work at smaller spatial scales or focal areas. For the TBLM approach outlined in the Manager’s and Field Guides, this might mean using these maps as a first look at the area and creating a draft map of the threats. These areas would then be ground-truthed and assessed for accuracy and management needs, and a management plan updated to reflect the on the ground conditions. These maps are not precise enough to be relied on exclusively at small scales, and should be used as a piece of the puzzle when putting together a threat based land management plan.

Oregon Explorer Ecostate Time Series Maps

A suite of threat-based Ecostate time series maps released in April 2021, and updated in May 2022 depict change in Oregon rangeland condition from the mid-1980s to present. Maps can be accessed from the the SageCon Landscape Planning Tool and the SageCon data webpage.

 Oregon Sage-Grouse Threat Based Framework Mapping

The Oregon Sage-Grouse Threat Based Framework Mapping uses a proprietary process called Earth Sense Technology to create “ABCD maps” of ecological states from a threat-based model across 8 sage-grouse priority areas for conservation (PACs). Maps were developed based on photo points categorized into ABCD states (rather than continuous percent cover data used in many other products). These maps are created by Open Range Consulting and do not include all rangelands in Oregon. Data will be downloadable in the future.

Learn more about the Oregon Sage-Grouse Threat Based Framework Mapping

Rangeland Analysis Platform

The Rangeland Analysis Platform, or the RAP provides continuous cover maps of major rangeland vegetation functional groups at yearly intervals from 1984 to 2017 across the western US, and it is the only rangeland vegetation product available with a time series spanning over 30 years. This tool is best used at large spatial scales and has limitations. The predicted cover values are consistently underestimated compared to field-measured cover values. We suggest interpreting these data on a relative scale (e.g., identifying areas with relatively high and low values) rather than an absolute scale (e.g., using maps to identify areas above a 10% cover threshold).

Learn more about the Rangeland Analysis Platform (The RAP)

What Map to Use?

When utilizing remotely sensed maps for monitoring or management, it is critical to understand how to understand remotely sensed products and evaluate multiple options to choose the map best suited to a particular purpose. For recommendations, guidelines and best practices when using remotely sensed rangeland maps read this article from the Institute of Natural Resources and visit the Oregon Explorer Website for a comprehensive discussion on many of the tools for assessment and management of sagebrush rangelands available in Oregon and beyond.

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