The late Northern Nevada businessman and rancher Don Bently “never bought into the stereotype that agricultural and environmental interests have to be played off against each other,” so it was no surprise that the Bently Ranch teamed up with the Nature Conservancy at the Bently Ranch – Kirman Field to demonstrate that cattle ranching, habitat protection and public access can be compatible activities.
The partnership at Bently Ranch – Kirman Field began in 2005, when the Conservancy acquired a conservation easement thanks to the generosity of the Bently family and funding from the Nevada Division of State Lands Q1 Program and the Nevada Department of Wildlife. The conservation easement:
- Protects 4 miles of the Carson River
- Conserves important riparian and wetland habitat
- Safeguards over 1,000 acres of floodplain from real estate development
- Encourages sustainable agricultural practices
All easements are unique, but in keeping with the shared vision of Don Bently and the Conservancy to demonstrate that conservation can benefit both people and nature, the terms of this easement also allow for passive recreation and public access trails.
Excellent wildlife resources
Conservation of freshwater ecosystems such as the Carson River is a top priority for the Conservancy. At Bently Ranch – Kirman Field, the Carson River winds its way in braided channels, supporting extensive willow thickets and wetlands that sustain many animals and migratory birds. The ranch lies within the Lahontan Audubon Society’s Carson Valley Important Bird Area and a recent survey conducted at the site by the Great Basin Bird Observatory found 33 avian species including Willow Flycatchers which are extremely rare in this region of Nevada.
Classic western ranching landscapes not only preserve an important part of our cultural heritage, they also provide natural benefits including habitat for plants, birds and wildlife; floodplains to capture and slow down of flood waters; water purification; and groundwater recharge. A strong agricultural economy along the Carson River is essential in order to maintain the vast acreage of ranchland that provide these many benefits.
Bently Ranch has long employed advanced technology and sustainable agricultural practices to ensure that daily ranch operations are compatible with their long-term environmental and economic goals.
A unique trail system
At Kirman Field, Bently Ranch and Conservancy staff worked with local Eagle Scouts and volunteers from Starbucks, GE, Harley-Davidson Financial Services and the Carson Valley Trails Association to carefully construct nearly 5 miles of natural surface trail and boardwalks that provide the public with unprecedented access through private property while maintaining large undisturbed tracts of critical wildlife habitat in a traditional working landscape.
“The Bently Heritage Trail’s route mimics the natural sinuosity of the nearby river, meandering peacefully around wetlands, willow stands and wild rose thickets, before emerging to amazing panoramic views at four sandbar beaches,” says Duane Petite, Carson River Project Director for The Nature Conservancy.