A kick in the grass for restoration

  • cheatgrass

 


Looking back on the disastrous wildfires of 1999 and facing a devastating future in the Great Basin, the Bureau of Land Management saw an opportunity to try a holistic restoration effort that would break the cheatgrass-induced fire cycle (HCN, 5/22/00: Save Our Sagebrush). This landscape-sized idea spawned the Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, a nonprofit partnership of area universities, federal agencies, environmental organizations, agricultural and mining concerns, local businesses and Native American groups committed to rejuvenating the ecosystem.


The coalition's main role is to help the BLM get projects such as thinning, reseeding and riparian restoration done more quickly by dealing with the red tape. "We handle the overhead headaches and the administrative headaches," says Betsy Macfarlan, executive director of the Coalition. The group solicits bids from contractors and evaluates the proposals, sends them to the BLM for a technical evaluation, and awards the contract.


"This thing is growing into its own," says the BLM's James Perkins. "The government cannot rely on its own financial resources to get projects done."


But tackling these sometimes-controversial plans can be prickly: The Mount Wilson project near Ely, Nev., has been hit by a lawsuit from a group of environmental organizations claiming that removal of the juniper and pi–on pine trees is unnecessary.


Even so, Macfarlan says that finding new ways to facilitate projects couldn't come at a more crucial time: "We're moving toward biological bankruptcy."


To learn more about the Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, visit www.envlc.org or call 775/289-7974.


Copyright © 2002 HCN and Julie Elliott

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