Pronghorn antelope in the Walker Basin | Credit: Mark Gamba

Revegetation projects attract wildlife in Walker Basin

Antelope, mule deer, quail and other species are quickly returning to a number of properties being replanted with native forage as part of the Walker Basin Restoration Program in Nevada.

The relatively speedy return of so many species to these sites has delighted local residents and project managers with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

One of the most surprising recent wildlife sightings occurred at a former alfalfa farm where, just last year, the NFWF-led team established new plantings of forage kochia, Indian rice grass and quailbush. Starting in August, nearby residents and motorists have been spotting antelope taking advantage of the new browse. Antelope haven’t been seen on that property in at least 10 years, said Steve Tomac, NFWF’s field operations supervisor for the Walker Basin program.

“They’re not common in this particular area, so it really gets people’s attention.”

Tomac said that although the “reveg” projects in the Walker Basin were never intended to attract antelope, specifically, their reappearance “is indicative of success. They obviously like what they're finding there.”

“We’re really just at the beginning stages of revegetation,” Tomac added. “We’re still evaluating plant types, trying to determine which ones can be easily established with low water usage. But we’re seeing very positive signs on all the areas.”

The speed at which nature rebounds is even more apparent at another nearby site, planted with native browse about three years ago.

“We’re seeing a wide range of wildlife back on that property,” Tomac said. “Several mule deer are frequenting the property, from five to 10 on a regular basis, which is cool.

“Some of the plants we established there are for upland birds, and we’re seeing several coveys of quail, — good healthy numbers of them — which is a really good sign. We’ve also seen a wide variety of songbirds, as well as several red-tailed hawks.”

The revegetation projects, conducted on a collection of public and private lands, are part of a much larger effort by NFWF and its partners to restore and maintain Walker Lake, a natural desert lake in Nevada at the terminus of the Walker River stream system of Nevada-California.

Over the past century, the lake has lost about 80 percent of its volume and dropped in elevation by nearly 150 feet. As a result of declining water levels, salinity has increased to the point that Walker Lake can no longer support robust native fish and wildlife populations, including the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout.

Through the Walker Basin Restoration Program, NFWF works with local communities, private landowners, water managers, tribes, and a variety of public agencies to increase the flow of freshwater into the imperiled lake and promote and manage water conservation, land management and revegetation efforts throughout the lake’s watershed.

About NFWF

Established by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) sustains, restores and enhances the nation's fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 4,000 organizations and committed more than $2.3 billion to conservation projects. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.

About NFWF’s Western Water Program

NFWF’s Western Water Program works with willing sellers and other stakeholders to acquire and transfer established water rights to improve critical water flows in streams, lakes, wetlands, and riparian areas. These voluntary transactions include a wealth of negotiated agreements that help to maintain and restore critical freshwater habitats while addressing the needs of farmers and ranchers and the communities in which they live.

The program currently includes five major place-based initiatives: The Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program, the Walker Basin Restoration Program, the Desert Terminal Lakes Restoration Program, the Rio Grande Environmental Water Transactions Program, and the Colorado River Delta Restoration Program. Learn more at http://www.nfwf.org/wwp

 

 Contact:

 
​​Matt Winter, 202-595-2455