January 25, 2006

Program Seeks to Preserve Grasslands

PHOENIX (AP) - An exchange program between the Nature Conservancy and the Mongolian government is trying to preserve some of the planet's best remaining grassland ecosystems.

"Arizona and Mongolia have in common these large swaths of grasslands that are rapidly disappearing due to the same types of threats, like development and mining," said Greg Gamble, a program manager for the Nature Conservancy who visited Mongolia last year.

He said protecting Arizona's grasslands will help preserve diverse habitats and safeguard some of the state's most important water sources.

The Mongolians also offer a wealth of experience in livestock grazing.

Herders there have moved animals across open ranges for centuries and have learned how to rotate pastures and keep land from being overgrazed. Sustainable grazing is one of the conservancy's key issues and a focus of several programs around the West.

The conservancy hopes to use ideas and techniques gleaned from the Mongolians in programs related to grasslands management and grazing.

The group works with ranchers on range issues and could borrow from the experience of Mongolian herders.

The conservancy also operates grassland preserves that might benefit from new ideas.

"Arizona is an arid state and Mongolia is an arid country," said Jargal Jamsranjav, biology director of the Steppe Forward Program at Mongolian National University. "We want to learn how people work together here. It's good to learn from people's achievements and mistakes. We have a great opportunity not to repeat those mistakes."

In Mongolia, grassland and desert habitats are vanishing both to human encroachment and natural forces. Drought and climate change have taken a toll on the Gobi, where species are struggling to survive.


Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com