Science and Monitoring

By supporting and participating in research and monitoring efforts, the Diablo Trust helps to unify an oft-divided community. Rather than using science to support preconceived ideas about ranching and range quality, the Trust works to bring the best information to bear in collaborative efforts to improve land management and resource conservation.

Since it's inception in 1993, the Diablo Trust has been receptive to and supportive of research and monitoring as vital aspects of good land stewardship. Prior to 1993 the Flying M and Bar T Bar ranches had maintained active monitoring, along with the United States Forest Service (USFS), Arizona State Land Department (ASLD), and the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).

D. Humphrey & W. Sommers (ASLD), S. Cassady (AZGFD), and K. Metzger (Flying M) on the first FRSG monitoring of 2015 (credit: Jeremy D. Krones)

The USFS, ASLD, Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD,) and Diablo Trust ranches are active participants in the Forage Research Study Group (FRSG). This is the longest consistent utilization monitoring program in Arizona and is performed trice annually. Monitoring plots built by the USFS in the 1940s have been systematically revisited during the past five years. Instrumentation includes rain gauges, utilization cages and mapping, photo plots, condition and trend transects, and a wildlife census.

The FRSG utilization cages are moved once a year. (credit: Willie Sommers)

Dr. Tom Sisk leads a group lesson on grazing impacts at the research plots (Diablo Trust archives)

The Trust has also supported and encouraged more focused research projects, particularly when they augment knowledge about resource condition and offer new insights for management. For example, since 1987 researchers at Northern Arizona University under the direction of Dr. Tom Sisk have been conducting an experiment studying the effects of livestock on grassland ecosystems. The researchers collaborate with ranchers in moving cattle among replicated 2.5-acre study plots. Results from this effort, one of the few research studies that combine ranchers and researchers to test ideas of interest to both, are providing important insight into the complex effects of grazing and rest that are often oversimplified, as well as the interaction between climatic variability and grazing.

Taking samples during the 2008 IMfoS research cycle (Diablo Trust archives)


Other projects are always being performed on the ranches, usually led by professors and students at NAU or other regional universities. Please check back for updates!

The Diablo Trust Proposed Range Management Plan for the Diablo Trust ranches, prepared in collaboration with agencies and other Trust members over a one-year period, includes provisions for monitoring a variety of on-the-ground projects for land and wildlife improvement. Some of these projects are under way and monitoring is in place.

The Diablo Trust IMfoS Project

Integrated Monitoring for Sustainability

Diablo Trust stakeholders have worked together for years to design sustainable rangeland management. The group provides an ideal "test bed" for the implementation of the first comprehensive monitoring assessment tool for rangeland sustainability, as well as an opportunity to study and evaluate the collaborative management process itself.

The 2005 IMfoS Project field crew. (Credit: Tischa Muñoz-Erickson)

The IMfoS Project emerged from three years of collaboration among the Diablo Trust, land management agencies, and researchers from Northern Arizona University and Prescott College. The project received funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s P3 program, Community-based Collaborative Research Consortium, and the Ecological Restoration Institute to develop a multi-party monitoring process with the Diablo Trust.

One outcome of this work has been the development of an integrated monitoring framework, the Holistic Ecosystem Health Indicator (HEHI), to assess and monitor the sustainability of the Diablo Trust’s collaboratively managed rangelands.

Objectives for the implementation of the HEHI include:

  • development of cost-effective sampling protocols for the ecological and social indicators organized in the HEHI
  • transferring knowledge and making the HEHI tool usable to Diablo Trust stakeholders through hands-on monitoring and training workshops;
  • field testing indicators and evaluating effectiveness of the HEHI as a monitoring tool for Community-based Collaboratives (CBCs).

Tischa Muñoz-Erickson (2005 IMfoS Project Manager) and Judy Prosser (Bar T Bar Ranch) share good food and good times at the 2005 Diablo Trust Campout. (Credit: Jean Palumbo)

The implementation of the tool will have the added benefit of combining data from existing monitoring efforts, collected by different agencies, resource users, and volunteers, into a single data repository for the Diablo Trust and other potential users. it is also anticipated that these efforts will enhance the group’s adaptive management efforts by making information transparent, facilitating communication among stakeholders, and increasing learning efficiencies.

The Diablo Trust effort has received attention from numerous national entities that are now interested in implementing the HEHI as a monitoring tool for sustainability.

The 2008 IMfoS report can be viewed here, and the 2013 edition will be published soon.