Friday, March 18, 2011

Rangelands are Adorable

By Aleta Rudeen, Director of Outreach and Leadership Development for SRM


So... unfortunately rangelands aren't really adorable.  But they do need your help.

I am writing from a conference with lots of non-profit organizations that have sexy causes -- they have messages that the general public understands in a sentence or less and issues that are easy to get on board with, without necessitating any background to get people jazzed.  SRM doesn't have that advantage; turns out it's difficult to evoke the right emotions by flashing a specimen of bouteloua gracilis or a well-designed state-and-transition model.  But that doesn't lessen the importance of rangelands, it just means we have more ground to cover when reaching out to the public on the issues that are important to rangeland ecosystems and SRM professionals.

As members of SRM we are a community that is passionate and knowledgeable about rangelands, but we need to get creative about communicating that message.  Rangelands are important, and they do matter.  But how do we get the public to care?

I am in the process of compiling some outreach materials for SRM - think brochures for youth to start, but we will expand from there as projects develop.  I am looking for the feedback and expertise from the experts: you.  What would you tell the world about rangelands and about SRM?  How do we write about the mission and importance of the Society in a few sentences or less?  How can we put years worth of research and learning into a few short bullet points?

Please send me your ideas, your thoughts, and your content!  You can email me at, post ideas to Facebook, or respond to this blog post.  Help us develop our materials and get the message out there.  ...Because while rangelands aren't cuddly-pinch its cheeks-cute, they are massively important ecosystems and their sustainable management will affect generations to come.


Aleta Rudeen,Outreach and Leadership Development said...

Peter Burns was kind enough to forward a link to this interesting and related article by the Xerces Society: "Conservation's Elephant in the Room". Check it out at it's worth a read!

The article highlights how the media and public view conservation issues and how 'charismatic megafauna' steal the show from less popular but often more important keystone or endemic species.

One take away message: use the local angle and communicate conservation in a way that is relevant to the immediate area of your target audience.

Cindy Salo said...


I had to fan myself when you mentioned Bouteloua gracilis and well-designed state-and-transition models. Be still my heart!

You're right, kittens are cuter and pandas are sexier than plants. OTOH plants make it all possible. I rarely quote Bible verses, but Isaiah 40:6 says: "All flesh is grass." Without plants to capture solar energy there would be no kittens or pandas. And no fossil fuel to drive to the animal shelter or fly to China to see them.

Peter Burns and the article mentioned above are right: people care about important things. The Life in the Undergrowth website illustrates that people also care about interesting things (are those YouTube videos you just watched important? Or simply interesting?). Rangelands are important; I'm with Aleta, let's make them interesting.

For example, interesting things from the Life in the Undergrowth website:
* Dung beetles eat poop!
* Snails can seal themselves into their shell and survive for several months!
* Long-jawed orb-weaver spiders can walk on water faster than they can on land!

The plants and animals in rangelands do interesting things, too:
* Aroga moths and sagebrush: locked in a never-ending battle!
* Selfing, outcrossing, and cleistogamy: the complicated sexual liaisons of grass!
* Big bluestem: the grass that ate Kansas!

Send Aleta your favorite fun and fascinating tidbits about rangelands!


Cindy Salo said...

Range flash mob in Spokane!

Cindy Salo said...

We just need to use the right words.