BLM's Landscape Approach in Managing Wetland Aquatic Habitat
Nevada is primarily defined by two broad ecosystems; the Great Basin and Mojave deserts, which receive 6-12 inches and 2-6 inches of average yearly precipitation respectively. This makes Nevada the driest state in the nation. Riparian areas are the jewels of desert ecosystems and they are typically the only perennial water in most watersheds and offer vast biological diversity. Riparian areas are important havens for native fish and wildlife, many of which are listed as threatened or endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Because Nevada is the driest state in the nation, water resources are scarce and precious. Increasing demand and development of public lands has put strain on water resources within Nevada, jeopardizing the health of the riparian areas they support.
BLM Nevada has management responsibilities for 67% of the state, covering primarily small streams with minimal angler days and warm springs supporting endemic spring fish, such as the Hiko whiteriver spring fish, a federally listed species. Lahontan cutthroat trout, also a federally listed species, is the primary focal species in the northern part of the state.
Carol Evans, fisheries biologist, with the Elko District Office spearheaded cooperative grazing management and watershed restoration efforts two decades ago for the Maggie Creek Basin and Susie Creek. Cooperation among stakeholders led to implementation of variable prescriptive grazing management plans that led to an increase in willows, and in turn recolonization of beavers, that has led to riparian recovery and significant increases in shallow aquifer water storage. Beavers have had dramatic effects in increasing tolerance to drought in these stream systems.
In 2013, a Canadian film crew came to Elko to highlight Carol’s work as part of filming the documentary “The Beaver Whisperers” which will soon be available for viewing in the U.S. The film preview can be found at www.cbc.ca/beaverwhisperer/film.html. Much of this work was also featured recently on PBS Nature program in the episode "Leave it to Beavers" currently available online at www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/leave-it-to-beavers/leave-it-to-beavers/8836/
1 Maggie Creek - beaver have recolonized.
2 Maggie Creek wetlands.
3 Maggie Creek - site transitioning to wet meadow and cattail marsh.
4 Maggie Creek - grazing changed to spring and fall only.
In the Mojave, the Southern Nevada District Office, working with the National Park Service and Lake Mead Recreation Area, are developing a restoration plan for the Virgin River floodplain in Nevada. Matt Hamilton is leading this effort for the BLM. The Southern Nevada District Office has worked with the USFWS and Bureau of Reclamation to build two fish barriers in the Muddy River to stop movement of unwanted, non-native fish into habitat of endangered species including the Moapa dace. The dace occupies stream habitat in five thermal headwater springs and the main stem of the upper Muddy River within the Moapa National Wildlife Refuge. The dace and three other endemic minnows are present in the river and all have been negatively impacted by non-native species.
While the fisheries program in Nevada is small, it is a crucial component of BLM’s Landscape Approach to managing public lands. The Strategy integrates a suite of components to provide a consistent, science-based adaptive management framework at multiple scales. Landscape-scale resource conditions and trends are examined, focal areas are being identified for conservation and development through the Healthy Landscapes Program to in order to focus resources where they are most needed, BLM activities are integrated when and where appropriate, adaptive management is enabled, a foundation for partnerships is expanded, and the Strategy is nested within and complements the Climate Science Centers and Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.
BLM Nevada is a member of the Nevada Riparian Service Team, which is comprised of federal, state and local stakeholders interested in cooperative riparian restoration and management. This team provides training and support to help stakeholders identify adaptive management strategies that can improve riparian health. Partners on these restoration efforts include Newmont Mining Company, TS Ranch, Maggie Creek Ranch, Twenty Five Ranch, Trout Unlimited, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Nevada Department of Wildlife, Barrick Goldstrike Mines Inc., and the University of Nevada-Reno.
By Dave Hu, fish biologist and John Wilson, wildlife biologist