As conservation efforts to preserve the bi-state sage-grouse continue, groups working on the issue, as well as experts from throughout the West and federal agency representatives, are coming together to advance the next steps in addressing one of the major contributing factors to the species' decline: the expansion of pinyon-juniper vegetation that crowds out the sagebrush-dominated habitat needed for the species' survival.
The Bi-State Pinyon-Juniper Expansion Forum will be held Feb. 25-26 at CVIC Hall, 1604 Esmeralda Ave., in Minden, Nev. The Bi-State Local Area Working Group is hosting the event, and University of Nevada Cooperative Extension's Steve Lewis, Douglas County Extension educator, has worked with a Bi-State subcommittee to plan the event. Lewis has been working on the sage-grouse conservation issue with five working groups in Nevada and California for several years, facilitating more than 50 meetings over the last few years. This two-day forum brings in a number of experts to specifically look at the issue of pinyon-juniper expansion, what has been done, what's working and what's not; and then aims to fine-tune pinyon-juniper treatments identified in the Bi-State Action Plan.
"Really, we want to gather all the current available research-based knowledge on this particular aspect, so that we can apply it to achieve effective treatment," Lewis said. "We also want to develop and improve partnerships to facilitate further action."
Lewis was asked to plan and facilitate the Forum by representatives from two organizations who have been very active in the issue, the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (as part of the Intermountain West Joint Venture/Sage Grouse Initiative). The two organizations, along with the Society for Range Management, Great Basin Fire Science Exchange and Praxis Associates, Inc., are sponsoring the Forum.
The entire event is open to the public, but Lewis says the 5:30 p.m., Feb. 25 event is most geared for the general public. It is an Open Rancher & Public Conversation on Pinyon-Juniper Management. Earlier that day, some of the sessions will explore the current understanding of pinyon-juniper treatments; strategies from other Western states; and tools, habitat use models and concepts for prioritizing future projects. There will also be a session on other considerations surrounding the pinyon-juniper issue, such as cultural values, pine nut production, pinyon jay habitat, livestock grazing, recreation and aesthetics.
The next morning will open with a session reviewing the 2012 Bi-State Action Plan. Then, other morning sessions will explore how the plan can be fine-tuned, how treatment success can be monitored, and opportunities for future successful collaborations. The event will wrap up that afternoon with an optional field tour to Wellington, Nev., where participants will make stops to compare different treatment methods, including removal/thinning done by a chainsaw versus by a vegetation masticator (a large machine that removes and chews up the vegetation).
There is no registration fee, and meals and refreshments will be provided, but registration by Feb. 20 is required. Go to http://www.monocounty.ca.gov/community-development/page/pinyon-juniper-expansion-forum to see the complete agenda or to register. Persons in need of special accommodations or assistance should call Lewis at least three days prior to the event. For more information, contact Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-782-9960, or Lori Reed with Intermountain West Joint Venture at email@example.com or 406-549-0732.