Wildlife Habitat in Danger

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State and federal officials are facing a daunting task of restoring wildlife habitat after wildfires blackened about 1.3 million acres across Nevada in 2006.

Officials from the Nevada Department of Wildlife, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service said their cooperative effort will focus on reseeding charred habitat with grasses, shrubs and forbs.

While burn areas across the state will be targeted, the primary focus will be on Elko County, where most of the habitat damage occurred.

"We're treating those areas where we see the greatest need and the greatest potential for success," said Dave Pulliam, habitat bureau chief for NDOW. "Our resources are extremely limited in comparison to the scope of work that really needs to be done."

Officials said reseeding will take place during the fall and winter to take advantage of early moisture before invasive weeds and grasses become established in burn areas.

The BLM alone has purchased nearly one million pounds of seeds for the effort so far.

BLM officials said 30,000 acres already has been reseeded and an
additional 165,000 acres of aerial reseeding is planned for this winter in northeastern Nevada.

Later this winter, the BLM plans to plant sagebrush on several hundred thousand more acres within 28 burn areas.

A primary goal is to halt the spread of cheatgrass, an invasive and high flammable grass that can quickly take over a burn area. Cheatgrass crowds out native vegetation and can fuel future fires once established.

With wildlife facing major die-offs this winter due to habitat loss, NDOW authorized emergency mule deer and antelope hunts to thin herds. The department also is relocating 350 antelope away from burn areas.

While the BLM and Forest Service are focusing restoration work on public land, NDOW plans to treat private land with owners' permission.

NDOT has secured nearly $500,000 worth of seed to date with the help of donations and other sources. A special fund has raised about $85,000 to date.

"The donations have allowed for significant acres of additional wildlife habitat to be treated," Pulliam said.

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