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NMSU launches mobile-accessible web database of Navajo Nation rangeland plants

Healthy rangelands are key to the ecological and cultural well-being of the Dine’ people of the Navajo Nation.


Man holding computer tablet
Gerald Moore, Navajo Tri-State Federally-Recognized Tribes Extension agent, displays the new “Selected Plants of Navajo Rangelands” mobile-accessible web data base to help agricultural professionals, ranchers and others on the Navajo Nation identify typical range plants. (NMSU photo)

New Mexico State University has launched a mobile-accessible web database, “Selected Plants of Navajo Rangelands” at navajorange.nmsu.edu, to help agricultural professionals, ranchers and others on the Navajo Nation identify typical range plants to help maximize rangeland ecology, productivity and sustainability.

Gerald Moore, Navajo Tri-State Federally-Recognized Tribes Extension agent, identified a need for updated educational resources for Navajo rangelands management.

“We had a 1981 publication ‘Navajo Nation Range Management Handbook’ from the University of Arizona, but it was not in color, or Internet accessible,” Moore said.

Moore turned to NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Innovative Media Research and Extension department to help design the new tool, “Selected Plants of Navajo Rangelands.”

“This website is the first of its kind with the Navajo plant name written and spoken,” Moore said.

The “Selected Plants of Navajo Rangelands” website includes information about 198 Navajo rangeland plants. Plants are identified by both their English and Navajo names.

They are also searchable by plant type, common name, scientific name, flower color, habitat, growing season or special concerns.

“The website includes easy to see information about each plant, such as if it is good forage or toxic to livestock and wildlife; if there are any dangers for humans, such as poisonous, or causes skin and eye irritation; or if it is invasive or noxious,” Moore said. “The page also identifies positive use of the plant in rangeland management such as stabilizes soil, drought-tolerant or prevents erosion.”

For offline use, a 378-page pdf booklet version of the database contains most of the same information and is intended for download to a mobile device for use in the field.

“I think it will be a useful tool. I wished it had been available when I was doing rangeland management workshops on the Navajo Nation,” said Nick Ashcroft, former NMSU Extension range management specialist.

“This website can be used by all ages,” Moore said. “We did a presentation to see how people responded to the website and publication, and how they would use it, how would it be most beneficial to them.”

Feedback from 44 agricultural leaders, including farmers, ranchers and land officials, indicated that 95 percent believed people in their community would use these resources. They cited images, plant name and spoken Navajo as the most useful aspect of the tool.

The group surveyed was evenly divided between those who primarily used Navajo names for plants and those who primarily use English names for plants. A small minority used scientific names and one respondent used Hopi names.

“The agricultural leaders felt the guide would be useful to their friends, children, teachers, parents and grandparents, with more than half of respondents specifying its usefulness to children,” said Amy Smith Muise, editor with NMSU’s Innovative Media Research and Extension department. “Nearly all respondents, 95 percent, felt that this guide would help the next generation and that it would support healthy rangeland management.”

This project was funded by a Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension professional improvement grant.

Rangeland plant information was gathered in collaboration with Moore and Ashcroft.

Navajo botanical names were derived from a historical publication from the University of Arizona, and additional Navajo language support was provided by Varian Begay, Wilfred Big, Arnold Clifford, Cuyler Frank, Lorene B. Legah, Tennell Nez and Tom Seaton.

Agency resources personnel contributing to the project included Renee Benally, Casey Francisco, Ken Gishi, Andrea Long, Felix Nez Jr., Felix Nez, Carol Palmer, Nora Talkington, Kathryn Thomas, Judy Willeto and Lawrence Yazzie.