|Aerial seeding of approximately 8,200 acres of important wildlife habitat has been completed in northeastern Nevada by Nevada Division of Wildlife (NDOW). The seeding was necessary because of the extensive wildland fires the previous two years.
"A large portion of the land that we seeded in this most recent effort is important winter range which provides mule deer with the cover and food necessary to get through harsh northern Nevada winters," according to NDOW habitat biologist, Steve Foree. "In addition, these lands are important sage grouse habitat."
The seeding occurred on private property, as well as Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service managed lands, in cooperation with landowners and the two federal agencies, Foree said. The seeding effort involved the broadcast of bitterbrush, sagebrush, blue bunch wheat grass and forage kochia seed in 60-foot wide swaths from a spreader suspended below a helicopter.
According to Foree, the seeding process is not cheap. "With the extensive wildfire damage across the West the last couple of years, sagebrush seed is around $130 per pound, which will seed approximately 10 acres. Along with the contract services of the helicopter company, we spent nearly $200,000 in northeast Nevada alone."
In the O'Neill Basin, approximately 3,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land was seeded with bitterbrush and two varieties of sagebrush. At McDonald Creek, 1,200 acres of mostly public land of the Bruneau River drainage were seeded with sagebrush.
The South Cricket fire areas, just north of Wells, had 2,500 acres of mostly private land seeded with two subspecies of sagebrush and blue bunch wheat grass. This area is adjacent to public land being rehabilitated by the BLM.
At the Izzenhood fire location in Elko and Lander counties, forage kochia seed, an exotic shrub that effectively competes with cheat grass while allowing the re-establishment of sagebrush, was spread on 1,500 acres. This location is also adjacent to federally rehabilitated lands.
Some of the seed was obtained through seed collections last fall that were organized by PrOWL (Preserving Our Wildlife Legacy), NDOW's volunteer organization. The purchase of some of the seed was made possible through donations made by outdoor sports groups in Nevada.
Even though the snowy weather made for less than ideal working conditions, they were just right for aerial planting, according to Foree. "With light snow cover on the ground and new snow covering the seeds, I am hopeful that this summer we will see new sagebrush and bitterbrush plants covering the landscape; the first step towards rehabilitating this important wildlife habitat."
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