The Walker Basin Conservancy (WBC) was established in 2014 to implement and manage long-term land stewardship activities and other actions associated with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Walker Basin Restoration Program. In its first year, WBC has ramped up its full time staff to eleven members and growing (meet our staff), initiated a successful on-the-ground stewardship and restoration program with the establishment of the Yerington Conservation Crew (YCC), and opened nearly 11 miles of the East Walker River of a previously privately-owned ranch property for public enjoyment and outdoor recreation.
The 2015 Yerington Conservation Crew (YCC) was the first crew of its kind developed to work on needed conservation projects within the Walker Basin. The seasonal crew was comprised of six teenage youths (ages 16-18) and one crew leader. The crew was established to work on conservation projects associated with properties under management by the WBC through the WBRP.
The YCC program is modeled after a national program, the Youth Conservation Corps, that employs youth throughout the United States on various environmental projects. Working on the YCC program fosters a spirit of cooperation and teamwork, teaching youth the importance of the environment, themselves, and service to the community. It gives them a chance to see how they can play a role in being good stewards of the environment and can often lead to careers in natural resource management, wildlife biology, and more.
Successful projects for 2015 included: the restoration of retired farmland through weeding and native revegetation projects, beaver activity suppression and protection of trees along the river in order to sustain the health of larger, mature tree species and gallery forests, litter collection at Walker Lake, and trail construction and maintenance along the East and West forks of Walker River. For many of the youth on the team, this opportunity served as their first step into the paid workforce. This program provided a platform to demonstrate to this youthful cohort the relationship between a strong work ethic and the reward of gainful employment while also offering pre-professional development.
For many years the Rafter 7 Ranch was primarily used for grazing both cattle and sheep. In 2013, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, in its role as administrator of the Walker Basin Restoration Program, purchased the ranch. The primary purpose of the acquisition was to transfer most of the water rights instream to Walker Lake; however, the unique attributes of the property allow for additional conservation of the riparian corridor. In 2015, a large portion of the ranch was opened to public access so visitors would be able to enjoy a nearly 11-mile stretch of the East Walker River, which runs through the property. Fishing, hiking, birdwatching, wildlife observation, floating, bicycling, picnicking, and equestrian use are among the many permitted uses of the portion of this ranch open to public visitation from dawn until dusk. Click here for more information.
As various properties have been acquired by NFWF adjacent to the east and west forks of the Walker River, which were formerly privately owned farms and since retired, WBC has assumed the role to actively revegetate and manage these lands. Species planted in order to reestablish native flora of the region include wild rose, fourwing saltbush, quailbush, buffaloberry, and big sagebrush in addition to a variety of perennial grass species and flowering forbs to target pollinators, such as sweet clover. Planting shrubs and grasses native to this region of the Great Basin ensures a healthier natural landscape for wildlife and resources, related habitat connectivity, and directly contributes to resolving dustbowl problems within the community, which result from formerly cultivated lands (no longer in operation) sitting un-managed.