ALC Conserves Historic Ranch, Critical Bird Habitat in Elko County, Nevada
SAN FRANCISCO, October 4, 2011 â€“ Nearly 12,000 acres of working ranchlands in northeastern Nevada and nationally-recognized outstanding avian habitat have been protected through a conservation easement completed by the American Land Conservancy (ALC) on the Boyd Ranch in Elko County, Nevada. Funding for the easement was provided by the voter-approved Question 1 Nevada Conservation Bond Initiative (or â€œQ1â€ funds), administered by the Nevada Division of State Lands. The easement will be held by Ranch Open Space of Nevada, the statewide cattlemenâ€™s land trust.
The historic Boyd Ranch, first homesteaded in the late 1870s, lies along the Emigrant Trail and was one of the first settlements established on the Upper Humboldt River and in the Elko region. Cattle production on the ranch has been ongoing continuously for roughly 140 years. That tradition continues today, as the ranch is managed by Andy Boyd and his son Russell, with help from Andyâ€™s wife, Lynn, and Russellâ€™s wife, Crystal.
The ranch includes 15.5 miles of river and streams, providing abundant resources for tens of thousands of migratory birds along the Pacific and Rocky Mountain Flyways. The conservation easement protects a rich wetlands complex of hay meadow, sandbar willow, cattail/bulrush, and adjoining upland sagebrush habitat important for birds as well as fish and other wildlife species. Greater sandhill cranes, white-faced ibis, snowy egret, and Swainsonâ€™s hawks are just a few of the 200+ avian species estimated to rely on the ranch for nesting, breeding, and foraging habitat.
For Andy Boyd, this easement follows from generations of the Boyd family sustaining a successful ranch operation on the principles of caring for the land and preparing it to be passed along to future generations who will continue that tradition. â€œThe easement is an investment in the future, both because it ensures the protection of the ranch, and because it fits into the ranchâ€™s business plan. It reflects our familyâ€™s belief in the future of ranching in Nevada. And it makes us smile to know that the wildlife will continue to flourish.â€
The American Land Conservancy began working with the Boyd family in 2006, in partnership with Ranch Open Space of Nevada, the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the Nevada Q1 program, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
â€œIt would be hard to overstate the ecological and agricultural significance of this ranch,â€ said Jim Elias, who managed the project for ALC since its inception. â€œThe Boyds have taken great pride in managing the ranch to benefit both the cattle operation and wildlife. Itâ€™s been my sincere privilege to work with the family. Their vision and patience are the reason this remarkable landscape is now protected.â€
Elias was introduced to the Boyds by Pete Bradley and Connie Lee of the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW). â€œThe Boyds have helped create one of the richest wildlife habitats on the Upper Humboldt River System through their thoughtful stewardship of the confluence zone of the river and creeks on the property,â€ said Bradley, a wildlife biologist at NDOW who has extensive knowledge of the ecological resources on the ranch. â€œThe Boyd Ranch Easement provides hope for the conservation and restoration of the entire watershed as a ribbon of protected habitat through one of the driest deserts in North America.â€
Connie Lee, NDOWâ€™s Private Land and Farm Bill Coordinator, added, â€œWhen it comes to the conservation of private lands, every region needs a leader -- someone to take the first step. The Boyd family did that. If all goes well, the Boyd Ranch easement will be only the first in a long string of easements that will protect the Humboldt River System for all time.â€
Preston Wright, president of Ranch Open Space of Nevada (ROSN), agrees. â€œROSN hopes this is only the first of many easements preserving the most productive private lands along the Humboldt.â€ ROSN partnered with ALC on the project and will hold the easement.
Wrightâ€™s family owns the Maryâ€™s River Ranch, located above Boyd Ranch in a contributory watershed. â€œThe Boyds have shown that the annual ranch cycle of flood irrigation, haying, and grazing not only works well with natural habitats, but even enhances them,â€ he says. â€œAn easement like this ensures that that mutually beneficial relationship remains in place over time, and points the way for others to follow.â€
The Nevada Division of State Lands (NDSL) administered the voter-approved Q1 funds used to acquire the easement as part of its goal to help protect habitat, historic resources, and watersheds in the state.
â€œNDSL is thrilled to partner with the Boyd family, American Land Conservancy, and Ranch Open Space of Nevada on this significant conservation easement,â€ said Jim Lawrence, Division Administrator. â€œThis conservation easement is a leading example of how public-private partnerships can help protect Nevadaâ€™s pristine wetlands and wildlife habitat while keeping ranch and farmland in private ownership and production.â€
That goal has long been a way of life and part of everyday operations for the Boyd family. â€œI am proud to be part of a tradition passed down to me through my dad and late uncle, Jackâ€ said Russell Boyd, who manages the ranch together with his father, Andy. â€œI am doing my best to pass those ways down to my kids, Q and Alyssa.â€
This easement not only conserves the Boyd Ranch and its many ecological resources, it also supports the implementation of numerous conservation plans, including the Nevada Wildlife Action Plan, Partners in Flight North American Landbird Conservation Plan, Intermountain West Waterbird Conservation Plan, Elko County General Plan, and others. The ranch has also been designated a United States Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society.
The Boyd Ranch conservation easement project is part of ALCâ€™s Great Basin Program , which has protected more than 90,100 acres in the region since 1990. For more information and a slide show of the ranch, visit our Boyd Ranch fact page.
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For more information contact:
Kerry Oâ€™Toole, ALC President
American Land Conservancy is a non-profit conservation organization that conserves land for the benefit of people and wildlife. Since its founding in 1990, ALC has conserved more than 274,000 acres of land and water resources, working landscapes, parks, and wildlife habitat across the country.