Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
NEVADA FWO: Partnerships Conserve A Species And a Way Of Life
California-Nevada Offices , December 1, 2007
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Jeannie Stafford, Nevada FWO
Creating partnerships that conserve wildlife as well as economic and social values can be a challenge. Prior to 2002, a partnership between the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe and the Service did not exist. But taking a cooperative approach brought benefits to the Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office (NFWO), the Tribe, numerous partners, and a rare fish.

The Duckwater Shoshone Reservation is an isolated rural reservation that contains the largest thermal spring in Nevada. This 3,850 acre reservation is home to 150 residents whose principle land use is agriculture. The reservation has a unique hydro-geologic system that is not typical of most arid climates. Geothermal activity carries warm groundwater upward, forming numerous hot springs. The 94 degree water of Big Warm Spring is considered the most important habitat for the Railroad Valley springfish (Crenichthys nevadae).

In 2002, the Tribe granted the NFWO’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program access to the Reservation, and the result was one of the Service’s most successful Tribal partnerships. In early 2003, the NFWO signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tribe to begin recovery actions for the springfish while preserving the Tribe’s economic, social, agricultural, and cultural way of life.

In 2004, the Tribe received not only funding from the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, but from a Tribal Wildlife Grant, and a grant from the Tribal Land Owner Incentive Program as well. This funding to restore the spring totaled $650,000.

In late 2004, negotiations to decommission a catfish farm and remove all aquaculture facilities that were negatively affecting the springfish were complete. Restoration of the spring system was designed not only to restore the stream channels and 68 acres of wetland habitat next to the spring, but also to improve delivery of Tribal irrigation water by constructing a new irrigation intake and pipeline delivery system. The project improved water transport along the main channel and restored the main spring source to accommodate appropriate flow rates. In addition to fencing the newly restored spring and wetland habitat, the partners also restored 45 acres of upland habitat.

A Safe Harbor Agreement, only the second agreement of this type with a Tribal Government, was signed September 26, 2007, allowing the reintroduction of the fish while use of the irrigation system and cattle grazing continues. All of the partners including the Nevada Department of Wildlife, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Geological Survey’s Biological Resources Water Resources Divisions, the NFWO and the Tribe were all on hand to celebrate when the Railroad Valley springfish were reintroduced back into their historic habitat that same date.

This strong partnership will assist in the recovery of one of Nevada’s threatened species and, at the same time, conserve the Tribe’s traditional way of life. A quote from Tribal Manager Jerry Millet earlier this year sums up the species recovery and the partnership this way:

“There is a great sense of joy and fulfillment in my heart seeing the restored spring with the stream channel flowing in the location the Great Spirit intended it to go rather than the man-made direction. Our goal as a Tribe is to continue into the future. Improving health in the land and water for the preservation of the unique and ancient springfish is part of the Duckwater Peoples legacy for our future generations. The success of the Big Warm Spring Restoration projects is founded in the collaborative process and persistent communication involving the Tribe, the individual tribal business owner, the Service, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the State Water Engineer’s Office.”


Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov
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