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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — A new web database for rangeland plants found within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation is designed to help people identify plants and to help rangeland ecology and sustainability.

The site, "Selected Plants of Navajo Rangelands," was released last month by the New Mexico State University. It lists approximately 150 plants.

Gerald Moore is the coordinating extension agent for the Navajo Nation with the University of Arizona's Cooperative Extension office in Window Rock, Arizona.

Moore initiated and spearheaded the project, which included collaboration with NMSU and other entities, after he saw the need to update a 1981 handbook by the University of Arizona that focused on rangeland plants found on 27,000-square-miles of tribal land.

The purpose of the project was to update the handbook by sharing its information online and adding details, such as color photographs collected from universities and federal, tribal and state agencies, Moore said in an interview this week at his office in Window Rock.

Plants are searchable by name, genus, species, plant type, growing season and flower color. Alongside the images are information such as whether the plant is good forage or toxic to livestock and wildlife.

Another feature is audio for pronouncing plant names in the Navajo language, along with the plant name written in Navajo.

"Take care of our Navajo rangelands," Moore says in Navajo on the database's main page.

Moore worked with several Navajo language speakers to record audio and to research the Navajo name for plants that lacked such information.

"It was a way to, hopefully, educate people that this is the Navajo name that we use, and we are accustomed to," Moore said.

Some plants, mostly invasive weeds, do not have names in Navajo because those species were introduced after or were not known at the time of the 1981 publication, Moore said.

The 1981 publication, "Navajo Nation Range Management Handbook," is available for download on the website along with the new 378-page handbook.

It took three years to complete the project, including consulting with Navajo elders, ranchers, gardeners, farmers and personnel from agricultural extension offices at NMSU, University of Arizona and Utah State University.

The online tool was designed by NMSU's Department of Innovative Media Research and Extension and the project was funded by a grant from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.

The web database can be viewed at navajorange.nmsu.edu.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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