Writer Erin Meyering interviewed Shevawn Von Tobel, Outreach and Communications Manager with Friends of Nevada Wilderness, an organization striving to restore land and wildlife in Nevada.
Q: Explain the partnership between Friends of Nevada Wilderness and the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management for habitat restoration?
A: Friends of Nevada Wilderness partners with all four public land management agencies, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service to help get volunteers on the ground to monitor and restore Nevada’s special wild places. The public land management agencies are faced with the impressive task of managing millions and millions of acres of America’s public lands while facing reduced budgets, staff, and resources. Friends of Nevada Wilderness assists the agencies to help gather additional resources and volunteer power to ensure our wild places (and the wildlife that depends on them) get the care they need. As Elias Flores, the Supervisory Natural Resource Specialist of the BLM Applegate Field Office said, “In today’s world of reduced budgets, partnerships such as ours with Friends of Nevada Wilderness and Dream Tags Charitable Fund are vitally important in order for the BLM to meet its landscape management goals.” For the past several years, Nevada has faced a crippling drought which has led to rampant wildfires burning up millions of acres of public land, land that native wildlife depends on for habitat. All of us wanted to make sure recovery efforts were underway in these areas to help the land recover.
Q: What are the wildlife recovery projects and how do they affect the land itself?
A: The wildfire recovery projects consist of planting native seedlings like bitterbrush and sagebrush in order to rehabilitate wildlife habitat burned by wildfires. Native seedling plantings will provide a critical food source for wildlife like mule deer, pronghorn, and Greater Sage-Grouse. It will also help create a viable natural seed bank for the area and prevent invasive weeds from colonizing. Our seedling projects are funded by the Dream Tags Fund at the Community Foundation of Western Nevada, a fund that is paid for by the proceeds of the annual sale of raffle chances to win a Nevada Dream Tag.
Q: Where are the impacted areas?
A: Our 2016 priority areas are Mosquito Lake, directly west of the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge (affected by the Coleman wildfire of 2014), the Santa Rosa Range north of Winnemucca (affected by the Hanson wildfire of 2012), and the Desatoya Mountains Wilderness Study Area (affected by the Cold Springs wildfire of 2015).
Q: What projects have recently been done through Friends of Nevada Wilderness?
A: So far, we’ve been able to conduct three different wildfire restoration projects throughout northwestern Nevada. Our volunteers have planted over 6,000 sagebrush and bitterbrush seedlings in areas affected by wildfires. Since we’re a statewide organization, we’ve also been able to accomplish quite a few projects in southern Nevada since we don’t have to wait for the snow. Our southern Nevada volunteers have restored over 2,000 feet of wildlife habitat in the El Dorado Wilderness, as well as installed an informational kiosk and repaired a post and cable fence damaged in the heavy rains last year in Arrow Canyon Wilderness. Just a few weeks ago, we also held our sixth annual Alternative Spring Break in Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Twelve students joined us to help restore wildlife habitat in Spirit Mountain and Bridge Canyon Wilderness areas, as well as picked up over 30 bags of trash and debris from Christmas Tree pass! This project was generously funded by Barrick Gold.
Q: What future projects can we expect?
A: We have a variety of stewardship projects planned for spring, summer, and fall. Our volunteers are getting ready for our last spring seedling planting in the Desatoya Mountains Wilderness Study Area this weekend and then we will begin focusing our efforts in Mt. Rose Wilderness to continue our “Weed Warrior” program. Although valued for its close proximity to Reno, Mt. Rose Wilderness has its fair share of human-induced threats. Friends of Nevada Wilderness has a full schedule of projects for folks to get involved and ensure our backyard wilderness area remains beautiful, natural, and wild. To begin our Mt. Rose season, we will be partnering with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful during their Great Community Clean-Up to take volunteers up Hunter Creek Canyon to remove noxious weeds.These weeds pose a threat to the watershed by creating dense monocultures, taking away precious water and nutrients from native plants, and affecting wildlife and soil quality. Our invasive weed removal projects will continue and are scheduled for the following dates: May 12th, 21st, May 24th, June 7th, June 11th, June 16th, and June 18th. We also want to make sure that new populations aren’t cropping up so we will be enlisting the help of volunteers to monitor invasive weed locations. These are great opportunities for volunteers to get a hike in, learn about invasive weeds, and brush up on their GPS knowledge. Our monitoring training dates are set for May 10th and May 17th.
Of course, Friends of Nevada Wilderness is committed to taking care of a variety of wild places across Nevada. We are planning to host the Black Rock Rendezvous with the BLM, Friends of Black Rock, and the Nevada Outdoor School during Memorial Day Weekend. This is a great weekend to learn more about the Black Rock through presentations and tours, give back through stewardship projects, and try some backcountry cooking with our annual Dutch Oven Cook-off! We will also be hosting a trails event on National Trails Day (June 3rd) in the north end of the Black Rock Desert to maintain the upper High Rock Canyon Trail. The following weekend, we’ll be back in the Black Rock to restore Pahute Peak Wilderness (June 10-12), mark wilderness boundaries (August 19-21), and remove barbed wire fence that wildlife gets caught in (September 9th).
We’ll then pivot our efforts to help rehabilitate Greater Sage-Grouse habitat in Table Mountain Wilderness (July 8-10 and August 12-14) by removing encroaching juniper trees and in the Santa Rosa Range (July 15-17) by placing visibility markers on fences to prevent wildlife strikes. We’ll be finishing up our season with more seedling plantings in areas burned by wildfires.
We definitely have a jam-packed season with plenty of opportunities for folks to give back to their public lands and explore some out-of-the-way places in the heart of wild Nevada.
Q: How can people get involved if they’re interested?
A: Interested volunteers can check out our website at Nevadawilderness.org or go directly to our calendar page at Nevadawilderness.org/calendar_of_events. They are also welcome to call our office at 775-324-7667 to discuss project details and ask any questions they might have. Friends of Nevada Wilderness can also provide camping gear to use for the duration of the project and work with volunteers who may need a ride. We are also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@friendsofnvwild) for those interested in receiving daily updates from us!