Bi-State Partnership on the California-Nevada Border

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A Boundary-Blind Approach Creates Trajectory for Success

Accomplishing sagebrush habitat restoration – like conifer removal – takes more than just a chainsaw. It takes working hard with partners to get to an understanding of the landscape that will result in an ecologically sound project that interested, involved parties can champion. This is the undertaking of public and private partners working to conserve Greater Sage-grouse on the Nevada-California state line, an area referred to as the Bi-State, where there is a distinct population segment of this bird.

The partnership efforts in the Bi-State continue to have a positive, lasting influence on conservation and management decisions. We are highlighting the collaborative efforts in the Bi-State as a Proven Model because of how their methodology accomplishes projects and camaraderie that have huge impacts within their working area and that resonate throughout the sagebrush range.

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The Challenge

Extensive Conifer Invasion Primary Threat, Among Others

Long-term drought, continuous wildfire, encroaching conifers, diverse and unique natural resource uses, invasive weeds, and other hurdles face this region. The expansion of pinyon-juniper woodlands into sagebrush is the greatest conservation concern here. Over half of the Bi-State area experienced some form of conifer encroachment. More recently, wildfire and the spread of invasive annual grasses have been recognized as critical threats, even for this relatively high-elevation population of sage grouse. Other threats vary in risk and threat level across the Bi-State including urbanization, intensive grazing, energy development, mining, predation, and recreation.

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A Shared Vision

Multi-layered Partnership Structure

To address these threats, the Bi-State partnership continues to build upon its long history of sagebrush country conservation with their signature “boundary-blind” approach of working across jurisdictional ownerships. Three key organizational elements guide the conservation efforts at different levels to result in well-supported outcomes. The community-based and foundational work group, called the Bi-State Local Area Working Group, meets to discuss current issues, science, and implement/monitor proposed and completed projects. This is a diverse group of private and public partners highly dedicated to the region’s healthy and continued prosperity. The Bi-State Executive Oversight Committee has regular meetings to assess progress and consists of leadership representatives in multiple state and federal agencies that help make big-picture decisions and can allocate resources. They created the Technical Advisory Committee, which consists of agency biologists, to provide technical expertise and guidance. Learn more about this multi-layered partnership structure here. This three-tiered foundation was a key element in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s not-warranted Endangered Species Act decision for Greater Sage-grouse in April 2015.

“Our vision morphed over time,” said Steve Lewis, a University of Nevada Cooperative Extension educator who has been facilitating the Bi-State Sage-Grouse efforts since 2001. “When the Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to list, people really understood, ‘Wow, we have given our natural resources such attention that we now can see a benefit to this and we are making a difference.’ So our focus shouldn’t be just on sage grouse, it should be on the health and wellness of our sagebrush landscapes.”

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“There is no ‘I’ in sage grouse”

Members of the Bi-State emphasize that what they are achieving in their region is not the result of any one individual or entity doing the work. One common saying among the people in this partnership is that “there is no ‘I’ in sage grouse.” In this cooperative approach, individuals are key at multiple levels and scales to the success of the overall effort rather than working for themselves or their one agency or organization. This is manifested in philosophical, technical, and financial support from a variety of sources.

Private landowners participating in the Bi-State partnership are described as conservation-minded and solution-oriented with respect to long-term conservation of sage grouse and the sagebrush system as a whole. Agencies have invested in partnerships with the landowners through voluntary, incentive-based assistance programs that benefit both agriculture interests and sage grouse.

“There’s always a degree of art that goes into natural resource management,” said Lewis. “This is where the local landowner perspectives are very important. They act as eyes and ears necessary for the art of managing natural resources.”

Lasting Conservation

Helping Each Other Overcome Hurdles

Partners in the Bi-State are building on over a decade of creative conservation across barriers and boundaries. Their members were recognized for this in an article published in the scientific journal Rangeland Ecology & Management. The authors of “Conserving the Greater Sage-Grouse: A Social-Ecological Systems Case Study from the California-Nevada Region” interviewed members of the Bi-State partnership. Through those conversations, themes emerge that show how conservation through multi-stakeholder engagement at various levels led to proactive planning and conservation measures that precluded the need for an Endangered Species Act listing. Find this journal article in-full here.

The Bi-State 2016 progress report states their past work “doesn’t mean we aren’t still learning. Appeals, drought and staffing capacity are slowing our progress in some cases, but as you can see with our accomplishments, when one area slows down due to an issue, we help each to finish high priority projects in another area.” Keep updated on this partnership’s activities on their new website.

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