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NRCS Projects with Goshute Tribe Result in Return of the Sage Grouse

NRCS Projects with Goshute Tribe Result in Return of the Sage Grouse

On the border of Nevada and Utah, midway up both states, is the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation where the tribal members have worked with NRCS since 2011 making significant improvements to their range. The tribal lands consist of about 113,000 acres with 71,100 acres of that being rangeland and 42,000 acres being timber. The tribe held local working group meetings to establish project priorities, then began addressing their resource concerns through Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) contracts with NRCS. Early on, the tribe fenced off springs and installed livestock pipeline and troughs for livestock and wildlife. The tribe is tackling the 71,100 acres of rangeland in phases.

Plant ID with Goshute TribePhoto: Plant identification with Matthew Phillippi, NRCS State Biologist, Clell Pete, tribal environmental coordinator (l), and Rosco Pete, tribal range specialist.

“Cheat grass has been an issue, so the tribe has treated about 5,500 acres and re-seeded 650 acres so far,” said Matthew Phillippi, NRCS Utah State Biologist. “Through CSP, they have placed escape ramps on their troughs for wildlife and are monitoring rangeland transects to determine short-term and long-term range trends for vegetative production, plant cover, utilization, livestock stocking rates, and sage grouse habitat. The tribal members have even been trained to monitor the transects all on their own.”

Goshute_at troughPhoto: Matthew Phillippi, NRCS State Biologist (l), discusses the condition of the trough and proper installation of the wildlife escape ramp with Clell Pete, tribal environmental coordinator (r), and Rosco Pete, tribal range specialist.

On roughly 5,500 acres, the tribe has installed range planting, upland wildlife habitat enhancement, prescribed grazing, livestock pipeline, and watering facilities. The tribe currently grazes 60 cows, but hope to graze more in the future with the improvements they are implementing on their range.   

“The EQIP program has been helpful for providing water. . . to take water to the west end of the desert. The pumps we had with the windmills didn’t work. With EQIP, we were able to put in pipeline for cattle and other wildlife, including the sage grouse,” said Rupert Steele, tribal chair. “The sage grouse used to come into our communities where the water was, and now they’re back. We improved our stock tanks, and the sage grouse are using it. Working in conjunction with other agencies, working together as a partnership, has been beneficial.”

“Water is a limiting factor on the reservation, but tribal members are starting to see the sage grouse return,” said Clell Pete, EPA director, who has kept the projects moving. “The design aspect that NRCS provided has been very helpful.”

The tribe understands that conservation measures not only improve their rangeland, but also show reverence to the wildlife that inhabit their land.

“Any animals we see out there, we learn from them – how they follow the food and water. And for (tribal) dances, we mimic them—like how the sage grouse dances—out of respect for them,” added Steele.

Goshute_measuring rangePhoto: Clell Pete conducts monitoring of the range seeding