Land Stewardship Program

WBC's Land Stewardship Program is a priority on lands where water has been purchased for the benefit of Walker Lake.  Primary restoration goals for stewardship activities address three main issues: fugitive dust abatement, soil stabilization and noxious weed control.  Improved habitat is addressed where appropriate and possible.  Establishing arid-land vegetation that can ultimately survive without supplemental irrigation is the long-term goal for the Land Stewardship Program.

Restoration is accomplished through two broad strategies: passive restoration and active facilitated restoration.  Passive restoration relies on minimizing disturbance, monitoring and controlling weeds to allow infilling and regeneration.  Active facilitated restoration uses techniques that help speed the process of natural regeneration.  Thereby, stabilizing the site while speeding up the process of vegetative community succession; the species that are initially planted at the site are not necessarily those that are ultimately desired in the longer term, but help to establish the conditions needed for high quality late-seral stage communities.

A common example of active facilitated restoration WBC employs is planting grasses and then inter-planting ‘pods’ of shrubs. The grasses minimize dust and compete with agricultural weeds in the short term, and the shrubs become a seed source and expand into the restoration area while the grasses decrease as irrigation water is removed. Over time a plant community that more closely resembles the surrounding desert and river corridor habitats becomes established and can thrive without supplemental irrigation.

Seeding native grasses - Photo: Jackson Shedd

Seeding native grasses - Photo: Jackson Shedd

 

Yerington Conservation Crew (YCC)

In 2015 and 2017, the WBC hired six local Yerington High School students and recent graduates to create a local conservation crew.  For three months during the summer, the YCC assists the WBC with restoration projects on its managed properties, along with projects at Wilson Canyon and Walker Lake.

 

Conservation and Agriculture

In addition to land stewardship, the WBC has focused on other conservation efforts, including reducing instream sedimentation, improving irrigation infrastructure, and investigating opportunities to reduce overall water usage while keeping local agricultural economy intact.

Examples of this work include:

Walker River State Recreation Area

More than 12,000 acres of land and nearly 30 miles of the East Walker River were reconveyed to the State of Nevada to become a new state recreation area.  Nevada State Parks manages the property which was historically three large ranches: Pitchfork, Rafter 7 and Flying M.  These properties have prime riparian habitat and some portions are in ideal habitat for the Bi-State Sage Grouse and the Lahontan cutthroat trout. Land stewardship staff will continue to work closely with state agencies to manage the restoration activities on the WRSRA. For all three properties, WBC is currently managing farming and grazing leases and has completed detailed restoration plans.

Mason Valley Wildlife Management Area

Nearly 1,600 acres of upland and riparian land, including more than three miles of the Walker River, was donated to the State of Nevada.  The land is now part of the MVWMA managed by the Nevada Department of Wildlife and provides upland wildlife habitat in perpetuity as well as public access for hunting, fishing and general recreation. WBC continues to manage both active and passive restoration activities on the property now managed by NDOW.

City of Yerington

Yerington Weir - Photo: Mark Gamba

Yerington Weir - Photo: Mark Gamba

Mason and Smith Valley Conservation Districts

Irrigation Infrastructure - Photo: Jackson Shedd

Irrigation Infrastructure - Photo: Jackson Shedd

Sediment removal at the Yerington Weir to improve flows and reduce or minimize upstream flooding.

 

WBC stewardship crews coordinate with MVCD and SVCD on some revegetation projects on retired farmland associated with the Walker Basin Restoration Program.

 

Walker River Irrigation District

WBRP has worked with WRID on a floodwater forbearance program in 2011, a water lease program and increasing gaging in the Walker system.

 

Farr West Engineering

Designing and implementing projects to reduce sediment in the Walker River, especially around the Yerington Weir and improve river and ditch delivery efficiency.

Land Restoration Research

Photo: Ashley Downing

Photo: Ashley Downing

WBC is working closely with the University of Nevada, Reno on land restoration and native seed collection research on plots located on the Rafter 7 Ranch.

Sustainable Agriculture Program

Photo: Mark Gamba

Photo: Mark Gamba

Partnered with Desert Pearl Farms to gain more information on overall impact of alternative agriculture and land use conversions that reduce total water use in the Walker Basin while supporting jobs and the local economy.