Giving Rare Wildlife a Fighting Chance

Thanks to your support, we’ve been working with conservation partners and volunteers to improve habitat for rare species in our area. It’s rewarding work, and we’re excited to share our progress with you.

Alongside volunteers from Nevada and California, ESLT’s Land Conservation Program Director, Susanna Danner, and Stewardship Coordinator, Sara Kokkelenberg, joined our partners at the U.S. Forest Service – Bridgeport Ranger District on September 23 for a workday in the Sweetwater Range of western Nevada.

This beautiful area near Bridgeport offers high-quality sagebrush steppe habitat, which provides an excellent home for species such as the rare Bi-state Greater sage-grouse and pygmy rabbit. However, in this particular location, invasive conifers – such as juniper and pinyon pine – are beginning to gain a foothold.

 

DANGER FROM ABOVE

Many might assume these trees would offer shelter to wildlife. But danger hides in those branches!

When conifers sprout up in what was once open sagebrush rangeland, predatory ravens and raptors move in – and that’s bad news for vulnerable species that could quickly become an easy meal.

In open sagebrush rangelands without conifers, predatory birds have to expend a lot of energy to stay aloft while they hunt. This gives their prey a better chance at survival. But if predators can perch on a juniper, a fence post, or a power pole, they can hunt much more effectively. Perching ravens, for example, will wait and watch for a sage-grouse hen to leave her nest, and then swoop down and eat all the eggs or nestlings she leaves behind.

Sage-grouse and pygmy rabbits didn’t evolve with this kind of intense hunting pressure. They have no defense. And with fire suppression and climate change, invasive pinyon and juniper are beginning to take over the sagebrush steppe.

 

SOLUTIONS AT WORK

With your assistance and on-the-ground help from an amazing team of volunteers, we’re able to take action. Together with your conservation partners, you’re giving sage-grouse, pygmy rabbits, and other rare wildlife a fighting chance.

Volunteers remove small conifers on the Sweetwater Range.

When we gathered near Sweetwater Summit on September 23, we focused on cutting down small pinyon and junipers. The good news is that we know we weren’t too late: we saw sage-grouse scat in the area we were restoring! The Forest Service is planning additional workdays to continue this important work in the Sweetwater Range, and we look forward to helping out.

In addition to this recent work with the Forest Service, ESLT volunteers have been tackling similar projects on lands you’ve helped conserve, such as at Conway Ranch, Sinnamon Meadows, and the Black Lake Preserve.

In these locations, we’ve been installing perch deterrents on fenceposts (as seen below) to prevent predators from getting too comfortable while on the hunt. Volunteers have also been flagging barbed wire fences with reflective materials to make them more visible to sage-grouse and other vulnerable wildlife, which can get snared in the barbs.

If you’d like to join us next time, email Sara at sara@eslt.org – we’d love to add you to our volunteer list, and will let you know about upcoming opportunities when you can lend a hand!

 

Want to learn more about conifer removal, its effectiveness, and other economical ways to help rare species in our area? Here’s a great article on the subject!

 

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