Stories in Nevada

Protecting Sagebrush Ecosystems

Working with Barrick to protecting sagebrush seas

Sagebrush Ecosystems Splash 640 by 250
Rangelands Sagebrush sea in Eastern Nevada ©: Chip Carroon
Sage Grouse
Greater sage-grouse The sagebrush sea supports wildlife like the Greater sage-grouse © Tatiana Gettelman

The Nature Conservancy and Barrick have entered into an agreement for the Conservancy to help prepare a conservation plan for as much as 582,000 acres of land managed by Barrick in northern and eastern Nevada to make a meaningful positive impact for sage-grouse.

The sagebrush and wet meadow ecosystems on which sage-grouse depend provide critical habitat to many important species, and are generally in decline across Nevada. The range needs to become healthier for the benefit of wildlife and people. Barrick’s extensive land holdings include important sage-grouse habitat in Nevada, are also important for other key species and ecosystems, and present an outstanding opportunity to improve key habitat in Nevada.

The Nature Conservancy is serving a technical role of providing science-based information and options for habitat improvement to Barrick. The primary objective of the agreement is to use the Conservancy’s Sage-Grouse Conservation Forecasting tools to design and document cost-effective conservation and restoration treatments for select Barrick properties that will measurably improve greater sage-grouse habitat and population viability.

The work will be conducted over roughly three years, and will involve an expert process for creating management alternatives, including participation of federal and state agencies. The work will be conducted through an open, close and collaborative working relationship between the Conservancy, Barrick, and the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (FS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), and the Nevada Sagebrush Ecosystem Council.

Barrick’s primary business of gold mining occasionally requires expansion into new land areas and always requires reclamation or mitigation of these disturbed areas.

Barrick voluntarily has implemented a range of measures on its own lands to benefit sage grouse, including innovative grazing management techniques and restoration of native plants on Barrick properties impacted by fire and invasive species. Barrick has many years of experience managing Nevada lands to benefit sage-grouse, and has developed considerable expertise related to sagebrush ecosystem conservation.

The Nature Conservancy is interested in expanding the application of its Sage-Grouse Conservation Forecasting tools, and the collaboration with Barrick will demonstrate their applicability and utility. These tools are a proven method for:

  • Prescribing cost-effective restoration projects to improve ecosystem health and functionality;
  • Ensuring that sound ecological metrics are used to track management success; and
  • Ensuring that limited restoration funds are used as effectively as possible.

In addition to designing land management practices to benefit sage-grouse, the work is intended to:

  • Design management practices to improve habitat for mule deer and golden eagle;
  • Build support among federal and state agencies and other interested parties for the methods, metrics, processes, recommendations and products developed for Barrick’s properties;
  • Design conservation and restoration/rehabilitation actions that are compatible with appropriate commercial livestock operations;
  • Facilitate the use of the restoration plan and the underlying metrics and methodologies, as a demonstration of best practices for developing habitat and population viability metrics and standards for use within the federal regulatory context; and
  • Serve the ecological and economic interests of Nevada.

Learn about another project in Eastern Nevada >