This paper (1) provides a review of conditions under which historic reference information is and is not required to meet management and policy objectives, (2) summarizes current approaches to defining the reference for land health and degradation assessments, and (3) presents a protocol, “Describing Indicators of Rangeland Health” (DIRH) for collecting and organizing data that can be used to define a historic reference. This protocol builds on the framework and indicators presented in the “Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health” (IIRH). IIRH uses a combination of scientific and local knowledge to generate soil- and climate-specific assessments of three attributes of land health. It is used in a number of countries. In the United States, data are aggregated over 30,000 locations to provide national assessments.