A Brief History of Three Nevada Conservation Collaboratives
The following is a guest article written by Robin Boies, a rancher and member of multiple collaborative conservation groups in Nevada.
Hardline stances and high profile public land issues in the West often capture national and regional media attention. In contrast, or perhaps in answer to the divisiveness and controversy over the shared use of our public natural resources, a quiet counter-revolution of collaborative resource management across the rangelands and forest lands of the American West arose in the mid-1990’s. This emerging system of resource management resulted in small enclaves of community consensus-based efforts taking root. Today, many of these groups are still going strong and serve as successful, solution-based alternatives for resource management. The following is a small sampling of communities of practice that have built upon each other’s shoulders to further civility and conservation success in Nevada.
Shoesole Management Team
In 1995 in the northeastern corner of Nevada, the Cottonwood Ranch and the Smith family started a collaborative team to address pressing Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issues on their livestock allotment. In 2000 neighboring Boies Ranch gathered together a collaborative management team to address an impending permit renewal on their BLM allotment. Both teams included state and federal agencies, university extension experts and any others interested in this new way of addressing resource management.
The two ranch teams combined around 2003 and became the Shoesole Management Team. In 2010 the neighboring Uhart family joined the Shoesole. Three times per year the collaborative management team meets and tackles the grazing management planning, monitoring and year-end review for each individual ranch. Sitting in our meeting circle respect and listening is cultivated. We continue to observe and experience the positive results of defining agreed upon resource values and goals, planning, implementing production and conservation actions, and building trusting relationships.
Stewardship Alliance of Northeast Elko (SANE)
In 2012, the three Shoesole ranches and five neighboring ranches got together to address the potential listing of the Greater Sage-grouse. This group became the Stewardship Alliance of Northeast Elko (SANE). Rancher and agency members associated with the Shoesole group and familiar with the Shoesole consensus and facilitation process supplied a foundation of relationships from which to launch SANE.
Among other achievements, SANE went onto write the 2013 “SANE Sagebrush Ecosystem Conservation Plan”. The Plan includes refinement of the FWS Sage grouse threat assessment to better reflect SANE landscape, development of a socio-economic goal and an ecological goal and a project list, as well as the creation of the Technical Advisory Committee that developed a vetting and prioritization system for the list of projects. Access that plan and learn more about SANE here.
Nevada Collaborative Conservation Network (NVCCN)
This brings us to the Nevada Collaborative Conservation Network (NVCCN), which is a statewide effort that started in 2016 and includes members from these other more locally based collaboratives. NVCCN aspires to incentivize community-based conservation and effectively preserve Nevada’s unique and diverse cultures, local economies, and ecosystems for future generations. The members of NVCCN have shown considerable commitment to cultivate the political, financial, legislative and local support for NVCCN’s initiative to build community based conservation programs and a statewide conservation network in Nevada. It's potential can be seen in the engagement of state and federal agencies, landowners, university extension specialists, conservation districts, non-profits and individuals who have contributed their time, enthusiasm, and expertise.
NVCCN is working to develop efficient methods of data compilation and storage, and it is fostering and developing a roster of trained facilitators to help with local discussions and meetings. NVCCN is sharing old and new success stories, funding opportunities, and striving to improve all communication channels vertically and horizontally. The network sponsors workshops, trainings and webinars to scale up community-based resource management efforts across the state.
The network also envisions helping individuals, groups and communities take a proactive step toward solving complex local resource issues through the building of strategic partnerships, securing funding, and by building local capacity to plan and implement projects. There is general consensus that taking a bottom up approach and by working at the local level with trusted partners, landscape-scale conservation and implementation becomes a reality. Find out more about NVCCN here.
There is a quarter of a century of evidence in Nevada and across the West that locally-led conservation can provide success on the ground for agencies, landowners, and the majority of the public when those efforts are built on a foundation of community inclusivity and diversity, and grounded in integrity and accountability. If we each ask in our own community, “What could be?” and not get stuck in “What was,” or “What is,” we can change the world.