Ground-based monitoring of rangeland condition is common in Australian pastoral administration systems. In the Northern Territory, such monitoring is officially seen as a key plank of sustainable pastoral land use. In the NT and elsewhere, these monitoring schemes have sought to increase participation by pastoralists. Involvement of pastoralists in monitoring is theoretically an educative process that will cause pastoralists to more critically examine their management practices. Critical perspectives on the relationship between rangelands science/extension and pastoralist knowledge systems and concerns, however, suggest that pastoralists’ reception of such monitoring schemes will be influenced by a range of social contexts, including the character of pastoralist environmental knowledge. Fieldwork with pastoralists in Central Australia shows that the process by which pastoral environmental knowledge develops has rich experiential, historical and social dimensions. These contexts play a role in framing pastoral environmental knowledge and in shaping pastoralists’ interpretations of environmental events and information from other parties. Pastoralists will assess information from monitoring in light of these contexts. The nature of the ground-based monitoring scheme is such that the very environmental knowledge that it seeks to reform may in fact be confirmed or otherwise interact with pastoral knowledge in unanticipated ways. Lack of systematic evaluation of the scheme and of pastoral environmental knowledge, however, precludes definitive judgements at this stage. The apparently central role of monitoring in NT pastoral land administration, however, suggests that the assumptions underlying the scheme and its implementation be reassessed.