Melvin George

2007 James H. Meyer Distinguished Achievement Award

The Academic Federation is pleased to present the annual James H. Meyer Distinguished Achievement Award to Melvin R. George, a Cooperative Extension Rangeland Management Specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences.

A national leader in the scientific management of rangelands and the development of extension education programs, Dr. George has developed effective approaches to managing grazing and protecting water quality that have impacted millions of acres in California.

Dr. George holds a B.S. in Animal Science from CSU- Chico, an M.S. in Range Management from Texas Tech University, and a Ph.D. in Range Science from Utah State University. Since arriving at UC Davis in 1978, he has broadened the range extension program beyond a focus on agronomic improvements to address environmental issues affecting rangelands and water quality.

Focusing on grazing and ranch management in the 1980s, Dr. George conducted intensive grazing extension education programs that helped ranchers improve profitability while reducing impacts on rangelands and their watersheds. Using ranch planning to integrate interdisciplinary and often competing objectives, Dr George led the first collaboration of Cooperative Extension Specialists and Farm Advisors in natural resources management in 1982. This was the first of many collaborations that lead to the development of the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) Integrated Hardwood Range Management Program and the DANR Natural Resources Program Area. This was the leading edge of Cooperative Extension’s effort to conduct environmental impact education programs for California landowners, managers and policy makers.

In California, water quality depends largely on the management of watersheds dominated by rangeland ecosystems, where multiple uses and diverse ownerships complicate the implementation of solutions. Dr. George created a policy framework based on science and community participation that encouraged voluntary compliance, then advanced a research and education program that evaluated and advanced scientific knowledge and engaged ranchers in problem-solving by providing the knowledge and tools to implement solutions. In the short course that he developed and implemented with Farm Advisors and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, over 1000 ranchers developed water quality plans that impacted more than two million acres of privately-owned rangeland. The successful process that he created has been adapted in several other states.

He has served in key leadership positions, including Director of the California Rangeland Research and Information Center (1998-present) and Chairman of the DANR Rangeland Watershed Program (1999-present). Given his leadership in range management, the USDA asked him to develop ecological site descriptions that will establish the grazing capacity for more than 17 million acres in three rangeland ecosystems: oak-woodlands, annual grasslands, and western juniper invaded rangelands.

In the past twenty years, Dr. George has been principal investigator for extension education and research projects with total funding of more than $3 million, including studies of rangeland water quality, beef cow distribution using GPS technology, and the effectiveness of extension education programs for changing ranch and grazing practices.

Among many honors and awards, he was named California’s Range Manager of the Year in 1994, given The Society for Range Management’s Outstanding Achievement Award in 1996, and named Outstanding Alumnus of Utah State University in 2000. He was a finalist for the Meyer Award in 2006.

Congratulations to Melvin George!

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