Managing Livestock Grazing for Riparian Recovery in Northeastern Nevada
The Elko District Bureau of Land Management (BLM), located in Northeastern Nevada, has a long and well documented history of managing livestock grazing for recovery of stream and riparian habitats. Field surveys which include permanent photo and data collection stations were established on more than 1,000 miles of perennial streams beginning in 1977. Virtually all of these waterways have been re-surveyed at least four or five times at intervals of three to ten years between the late 1970’s and today. Over the course of last 30 plus years, BLM personal have been working with livestock permittees and other partners to develop and apply prescriptive livestock grazing protocols for improvement of stream and riparian habitat conditions for native fish and other species of wildlife. Like many agencies and offices all over the west, we started managing riparian areas by constructing small exclosures in the 1980’s and excluding all livestock. By the 1990’s, we were learning how to apply principles of managing time and timing of grazing over a larger area. In more recent years, we have come to understand the importance of managing both uplands and riparian areas at a watershed scale and of incorporating principles of adaptive management into grazing plans. Our long-term database, combined with use of remote sensing techniques for monitoring, has allowed us to tell a compelling story of how riparian systems have changed over time in response to livestock grazing practices and to changes in the environment. Although this is still a story in progress, grazing practices which promote functionality at a watershed scale are yielding impressive results in terms of water quality, water retention and storage, habitat for wildlife and even sustainability for livestock operations during periods of drought. Such an approach seems critical in the context of rapid social, environmental and political change.