West Box Elder County
The Sagebrush Ecosystem Alliance
Helping Preserve the Ecology, History, and Economic Viability of Northwestern Utah
Northwestern Utah is about as remote and rugged as you get in sagebrush country. The western half of the county is an area where our Sagebrush Rangelands Partnership is investing in increased capacity and highlighting as a Proven Model.
Loss of People = Loss of Community
Over the past century, every community in West Box Elder County has seen significant population loss, which results in the decreasing availability of local public services. When schools, hospitals, grocery stores, and other such businesses close, residents are less likely to stay in an area where they can’t access important services and commodities.
“It takes more land now to support families in the agriculture business,” said Diane Tanner, West Box Elder County resident and rancher. “With people leaving our area, things close down and we have to send our kids and families elsewhere for basic necessities.”
Tightly related to this challenge is the relationship these communities have to the public lands that surround them. Public lands provide value for grazing, wildlife, and recreation opportunities—all core to the local economy. Here, the Greater Sage-grouse and the interwoven nature of public and private land management played a large role in motivating people to work together. Tanner expressed that being a part of conservation collaboratives involving private landowners makes her excited and hopeful about the lasting benefits of projects and programs that everyone can get behind. The threat of a sage grouse listing acted as a catalyst for the coordination that was already happening, bringing money and interest to accomplish common goal projects.
A SHARED VISION
Local Coordinated Resource Management Group Creates Path Forward
Coordinated Resource Management (CRM) is a model in which a broad base of stakeholders makes decisions by consensus, rather than by traditional voting and majority rule. CRM groups have developed across the West to help people manage natural resources in a balanced, productive, conservation-friendly, and economical manner, for the long-term by involving the wide ranging perspectives and interests. The West Box Elder CRM Committee was established in 2011 to coordinate the different resource management activities by taking the local landowner’s knowledge about the area and pairing it with multiple-agencies’ resources and expertise. This group is able to invest in and implement impactful projects around the most crucial needs that are guided by science and advance the values of the community, agriculture, and wildlife.
Out of these conversations and collaborations, the West Box Elder CRM identified the need for increased capacity to implement projects; so they supported the founding of the Sagebrush Ecosystem Alliance (SEA) in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, IWJV, and other partners. The SEA is a 1.1-million acre effort focused in West Box Elder, with the potential to expand into Nevada and Idaho. It provides technical and partnership assistance to implement conservation practices that benefit the sagebrush. This primarily includes restoring wet meadows, controlling invading conifers, reducing fire risk and invasive species, and coordinating the planning and implementation of appropriate grazing practices and range structural improvements, among other projects.
The SEA helps to:
- Build field-level capacity for collaborative sagebrush conservation;
- Improve cross-agency, cross-partner conservation and communication in sagebrush management; and,
- Create efficiency in managing public land uses and implementing restoration projects in the sagebrush ecosystem.
Click here to learn about the some of the science that guides these practices.
Empowered Communities Enact Positive Change for All
The Sagebrush Ecosystem Alliance (SEA) has been supported by key individuals and agencies that are collaborating at multiple levels and scales, including: West Box Elder CRM, BLM, IWJV, Mule Deer Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Private Landowners, Utah State University, Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative, Utah Grazing Improvement Program, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and more.
“It’s amazing to see how good land management practices really are good for all involved, including wildlife,” Tanner said. “People have traveled to West Box Elder Country to see what we are doing and learn from our successes and mistakes. It’s empowering to share what has worked for us and how we continue to learn.”
To organize and champion the SEA, a landscape coordinator has been hired. The SEA Coordinator is a member of this area’s community and works with the West Box Elder CRM to continue to bring together a coalition of diverse partners with the shared vision of sustaining the sagebrush ecosystem. This individual engages and coordinates with BLM staff and cooperating agencies on federal land analyses for projects on public lands, to support more streamlined and effective implementation.
Collaborative Conservation is Lasting Conservation
Since the community began cutting back the conifers and restoring wet mesic meadows, local ranchers can share innumerable anecdotes of experiencing more forage longer into the summer for their stock as well as seeing more sage grouse and other sagebrush species, like mule deer, desert cottontail, and sage thrasher. With the continued support through our Sagebrush Rangelands Partnership, the SEA Coordinator will be able to help deliver more conservation on the ground for communities that come together to overcome the challenges of a changing world. When a community is united, the conservation they realize is lasting.