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March 1, 2011
By Jim Sloan
Several University of Nevada Cooperative Extension range management experts are teaching a group of Moroccan environmental officials this week how to better manage that country's rangelands.
The UNCE faculty will be teaching lessons from Extension's Range Management School, which has been delivered to Nevada's livestock producers and land management agencies since 2005. The school is credited with helping Nevada ranchers maintain the health of the state's rangeland while increasing the profitability of their cattle and sheep grazing operations.
Although sheep are the primary form of grazing livestock on Moroccan rangeland and cattle are the dominant livestock in Nevada, UNCE Range Specialist Sherman Swanson said many concepts to be learned are the same for both regions of the world.
"We teach what we've learned here about the timing and duration of grazing," Swanson said. "Animals need food year-round, but if they graze the plants year-round, the plants don't have an opportunity to grow. So we'll teach the best way to manage livestock so that the herds as well as the plants on the range remain healthy."
Swanson said the Moroccan land managers are facing several challenges with their rangelands, which are not producing as much forage as they could for the country's livestock.
The visiting Moroccans come from the High Commission on Water, Forests and Combating Desertification, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ait Aarfa Tigrigra Grazing Association. The group includes rangeland specialists, forest engineers, a forest technician and a botanist.
Morocco is located in North Africa and stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Sahara Desert. The country is largely mountainous. Although many people associate Morocco with harsh desert, the Atlas mountains in Morocco receive more precipitation than most of Nevada, Swanson said.
The Moroccan delegation was invited to Nevada after retired Forest Service employee Rick Forsman traveled there as part of the Forest Service's international program. Swanson said Forsman discussed training the Moroccans in range management with former Humboldt-Toyaibe National Forest range staff officer Diane Weaver, who thought the North Africans would benefit from the Nevada Range Management School curriculum.
The UNCE and University of Nevada, Reno educators who will join Swanson in teaching classes to the Moroccan delegation are:
Rancher Agee Smith, who operates the 37,200-acre Cottonwood Ranch in northern Elko, will also address the group. The Cottonwood Ranch, which includes 1,200 acres of private land and 36,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service rangeland, is often held up as an example of how range management practices can improve health of rangeland and allow ranchers to increase the size of their herds.
Classroom sessions will include such topics as plant growth, animal nutrition, riparian management, grazing strategies, and livestock behavior.
NOTE: If you are interested in additional information or in interviewing anyone involved with the training program, please contact: