Extension has helped lead Collaborative Resource Stewardship efforts in northeastern Nevada over the past seven years, resulting in a model for other states and areas.
According to a needs assessment (UNCE Fact Sheet-01-38), burned area revegetation, wildlife and livestock grazing are the highest priority and controversial rangeland issues among northeastern Nevadans. To resolve these and other issues, grassroots collaborative approaches are gaining momentum in many western communities.
Extension faculty worked with the Northeastern Nevada Stewardship Group and the Shoesole Resource Management Group (consisting of the Cottonwood Ranch and Boise Ranch Holistic Management Teams) to provide appropriate educational opportunities, achieve balanced collaborative approaches for rangeland issues and develop appropriate adaptive management strategies.
The Northeastern Nevada Stewardship Group (NNSG), formed in 1999, is a diverse community-based organization that includes area ranchers, miners, businessmen and multi-agency personnel. The group’s goals include providing a community forum for scientific information/education related to healthy ecosystems and issue resolution through the collaborative process, and developing sustainable relationships and expectations that reduce conflicts, simplify and streamline planning and provide multiple use opportunities. Since 1999, Extension has provided leadership for the science education committee, co-planning educational workshops/symposia, teaching at the symposia and co-chairing the Sage Grouse Committee.
Educating group members as well as local citizens about natural resource management has been, and continues to be, a priority of the NNSG. The group has hosted numerous symposia and workshops that bring scientists, private citizens, public land users and agency personnel together to share and discuss information.
NNSG’s flagship project for four years was the "Elko County Sagebrush Ecosystem Strategy," completed in 2004. The Sage Grouse Committee is currently in the process of writing specific plans for individual watersheds and sage grouse population management units, while seeking grant funding to initiate on-the-ground projects.
Extension has worked with the Cottonwood Ranch Holistic Management Team (HMT) for seven years and the Boise Ranch HMT for four years, leading annual field tours and data gathering trips. The Holistic Management Team approach involves a consensus-based, decision-making model that encourages diverse participants to consider the economic, environmental and social impacts of each management decision before it is implemented. This approach has shown great potential for reducing conflicts surrounding public lands grazing. Extension personnel also taught riparian area proper functioning condition (PFC). Trained team members then conducted a PFC assessment and follow-up green-line monitoring at the Cottonwood Ranch, providing vegetation trend data to evaluate the success of the grazing management system and enable adaptive management changes.
In 2006, NNSG received a $153,530 grant and hired a contractor in 2007 to initiate a watershed-scale assessment of the Tuscarora Watershed/Sage Grouse Population Management Unit. Since 2001, NNSG has received four national awards for its collaborative approach to natural resource education and conservation.
In the Multiple Use Document, the BLM is recommending implementation of Holistic Management for the Boise Ranch’s Hubbard-Vineyard allotment on a permanent basis. The final document was completed in January 2008.
With help from Extension facilitation and educational programs, private and public lands impacted by collaborative resource stewardship now total more than 160,000 acres. Both HMTs work collaboratively to modify their livestock grazing plans, with consideration of multiple rangeland resource values, and develop appropriate adaptive management strategies to achieve balanced economic and ecological sustainability. The result is positive vegetation responses, which bodes well for sustainability for livestock grazing, wildlife and multiple land uses.
Questionnaires have been used at the conclusion of educational events, and results indicate that disseminated information has been useful and favorably received. A questionnaire survey of NNSG members at the group’s five-year evaluation and planning meeting showed the group has been effective in building trust and respect among the constituency, providing a community forum for education and working to reduce conflicts.
Citing the efforts of local collaborative working groups as being crucial to the conservation and restoration of sage grouse habitat, senior regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists recommended in 2004 that the sage grouse not be listed as threatened or endangered.
In 2004, Agee Smith, Cottonwood Ranch owner/manager was given the "Rancher of the Year" award at the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association. Smith was chosen for his innovative and unique management practices, including a Holistic Management grazing system. Smith’s passion for livestock grazing and rangeland health is evidenced by the success his efforts on managing livestock have had on the vegetative habitats.
The original agreement to follow holistic management was considered "experimental" when it was adopted in 1997. The success of holistic management is reflected in the Bureau of Land Management’s recently adopted Cottonwood Allotment Plan Re-Evaluation Environmental Assessment; its "proposed action" is the continuation of grazing using the holistic management process. Also, in 2005, the final multiple-use decision for the Cottonwood Ranch, recommending continuation of the holistic management process, was adopted without appeal from special interest groups.