Rangelands are vast natural landscapes in the form of grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, wetlands, and deserts. Types of rangelands include tallgrass and shortgrass prairies, desert grasslands and shrublands, woodlands, savannas,chaparrals, steppes, and tundras. Rangelands do not include barren desert, farmland, closed canopy forests, or land covered by solid rock, concrete and/or glaciers.
Rangelands are distinguished from pasture lands because they grow primarily native vegetation, rather than plants established by humans. Rangelands are also managed principally with extensive practices such as managed livestock grazing and prescribed fire rather than more intensive agricultural practices of seeding, irrigation, and the use of fertilizers.
Grazing is an important use of rangelands but the term "rangeland" is not synonymous with "grazinglands". There are areas of rangeland that are not grazed and there are grazed areas that are not rangelands. Livestock grazing can be used to manage rangelands by harvesting forage to produce livestock, changing plant composition or reducing fuel loads.
Fire is also an important regulator of range vegetation, whether set by humans or resulting from lightning. Fires tend to reduce the abundance of woody plants and promote herbaceous plants including grasses, forbs, and grass-like plants. The suppression or reduction of periodic wildfires from desert shrublands, savannas, or woodlands frequently invites the dominance of trees and shrubs to the near exclusion of grasses and forbs