The state of Nevada and the U.S. Department of the Interior announced an agreement with Newmont Mining on a sagebrush ecosystem conservation program that will guide management of more than 1.5 million acres of habitat. A first of its kind in the United States for its scope and scale, the agreement establishes a mutually agreed upon framework governing Newmont’s management of sagebrush habitat under the company’s stewardship. The company also may partner with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to implement sagebrush ecosystem enhancement measures on BLM-managed public lands in Nevada.
“Through this historic agreement, Newmont has committed to implementing a wide-ranging, landscape-level conservation plan that includes voluntarily managing certain of its private rangelands and ranches in Nevada to achieve net conservation gains for sagebrush species,” said Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. “This good-faith, public-private partnership represents a significant and meaningful achievement in the cause of sagebrush habitat and species protection in the western United States.”
Implementation of the agreement will allow the state of Nevada to work with federal agencies and a private entity (Newmont) for the first time to put into practice its Conservation Credit System (CCS). Under the terms of the agreement, Newmont will seek approval from signatory agencies for individual habitat conservation projects for which the company may receive conservation credits that can later be used to offset impacts related to future proposals for Newmont’s mining operations in Nevada.
“As the owner of private lands and a steward of a significant amount of BLM-managed public lands in Nevada, Newmont is uniquely positioned to work in concert with the BLM and the state of Nevada to advance and test land and habitat management techniques that will inform conservation practices going forward,” said BLM Nevada State Director John Ruhs.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified invasive annual grasses as the primary threat to the sage-steppe ecosystem due to the risk they pose in fueling wildfires that destroy sagebrush habitats. One of the first pilot projects implemented under the agreement will deploy targeted grazing activities on a large private land parcel owned by Newmont to improve the health of desirable plants and manage cheatgrass, with an overall goal of minimizing wildfire frequency.
Other related Newmont activities will include the testing of other invasive species management techniques; evaluation of strategic fuels management; changes in livestock grazing to promote native sagebrush ecosystem health by increasing the density of deep-rooted perennial grasses; and implementation of practices to reduce human-induced advantages for predators of greater sage-grouse.