ELKO, Nev. – About a dozen scouts from Elko’s Boy Scout Troop 820 participated in an Eagle Scout project recently that provides protection to Greater Sage-Grouse from fence lines surrounding the Spanish Ranch, 55 miles north of Elko.
The project was organized by 16-year-old Zach Daniels with assistance from the Bureau of Land Management, Elko District’s Rangeland Specialist and part-time Scout leader, Clay Stott and Tuscarora Field Office Wildlife Biologist, Ken Wilkinson. Daniels needed a project to finalize his quest for Eagle Scout. Wilkinson knew of 10 active sage-grouse leks in close proximity to livestock control fencing on the Spanish Ranch. Through Stott, Daniels coordinated with Wilkinson and ranch owner Ellison Ranching Company to install 5,400 flight diverters over 5.6 miles of livestock control fencing.
The overall purpose of installing flight diverters on fences is to reduce potential sage-grouse wire collisions and mortalities while in flight. The diverters are two-inch by three-inch white vinyl markers with yellow, lime green or orange reflective tape on both sides. The markers are spaced around four feet apart and clipped directly to the top strand of fence wire. The diverters help mark the outline of fence wires allowing sage-grouse and other birds to see the outline and divert their flight over the wires. Marker visibility occurs even with moonlight. Big game animals and other wildlife can also see fence locations during poor light conditions and avoid collisions as well.
“A study regarding sage-grouse and fence collisions completed in Wyoming by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department indicated that the markers appear to have reduced sage-grouse mortality by 61 percent between 2007 and 2009,” stated Wilkinson. “A field experiment in 2010 regarding sage-grouse and fence collisions completed in Idaho by the University of Idaho, found an approximate 83 percent reduction in collision rates at marked fences relative to unmarked fences.”
Sage-grouse often fly at night or during low light sunrise/sunset periods while attending leks during the spring breeding season. The leks or “strutting grounds” are traditional year-to-year concentration areas where male grouse display in the early mornings to attract female grouse for breeding. The diverters were purchased with funds from the Ruby Pipeline sage-grouse mitigation account.
This type of project is a vital part of ongoing sage-grouse conservation efforts on the Elko District. It complements other flight diverter installation work completed by ranching families on public and private lands in the District. It also complements ongoing collaborative work completed or scheduled by BLM, Nevada Department of Wildlife and other federal and state agencies. This work includes installation of more than 10,000 diverters near other known active lek locations on the Elko District.
The Elko District staff extends their thanks and appreciation to the scout volunteers for completing the project.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield. In Fiscal Year 2014, the BLM generated $5.2 billion in receipts from public lands.