Spotlight on Partners: Modoc-Washoe Experimental Stewardship Steering Committee
Innovation and partnership in rangeland conservation have been the hallmarks of the Modoc-Washoe Experimental Stewardship Steering Committee in three decades of advising the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service in northeast California and northwest Nevada. Established by Congress in the 1978 Public Rangeland Improvement Act, the Experimental Stewardship Program (ESP) was tasked with finding innovative solutions to rangeland management issues and providing incentives for rangeland improvements.
Today, three ESP steering committees are active: Modoc Washoe, Challis, (central Idaho) and Dillon (southwest Montana).
Keeping with the ESP model of balanced representation, the Modoc-Washoe group includes livestock grazing permit holders, environmental interest group representatives, wild horse and burro interests, resource conservation district interests, the academic sector, sporting interests, representatives for the timber and livestock industries, and local government representatives. Managers from the BLM Surprise Field Office and the Warner Mountain Ranger District of the Modoc National Forest serve on the committee along with representatives from the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the California Department of Fish and Game.
Among the Modoc-Washoe’s successes are numerous solutions to on-the-ground resource management problems, a grazing fee credit program (ranchers can use 50 percent of their federal grazing fee to fund range improvement projects) and an agreement that led to reintroduction of bighorn sheep into native habitat along the California-Nevada border near Cedarville.
Perhaps the biggest success has been the forum the program provides for improving cooperation, communication and understanding among parties interested in public rangelands.
- Jeff Fontana, BLM-California, 5/09