Although the Oregon Trail led to the Willamette Valley, by the 1860s homesteaders were beginning to settle in the eastern Oregon rangelands, and with them came beef cattle. By the turn of the 20th century, native rangeland grasses were beginning to lose ground to shrubs and weeds. To address the problem, AES established an experiment station in Harney County in 1911, with work focused on improving forages.
The study got a real boost in 1951, when AES researcher E.R. Jackman began work to improve and increase range grasses. That project eventually became a tri-state venture with Washington and Idaho, with state and federal scientists working together to understand all the factors, including climate cycles, soil properties, and the health of range watersheds, that affect the rangelands. Since the 1960s, range scientists have concentrated on finding ways to manage rangeland so it can support livestock grazing as well as healthy wildlife and native plant populations.