Carol Evans, Nevada BLM fisheries biologist for the Elko District of the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada, joined the U.S. Forest Service in the late 1980’s and helped survey over 1,000 miles of streams in NE Nevada. She began her career with BLM in Elko in 1988 and since that time BLM and local ranchers have been working together developing grazing practices to improve the water cycle, restore wildlife populations, and support ranching activities and communities. Nevada averages 10 inches or less of erratic rainfall per year and recent drought years have required land managers be flexible to protect the watershed. On Maggie and Susie Creeks, the water table has been rising over the last two decades. Grazing practices promoting functionality at a watershed scale are yielding impressive results in water quality, water storage, habitat for wildlife and sustainability of livestock operations. Since 2005, beaver have been increasing in many streams on the Elko District. Beaver build dams and dig deep channels and their activity has helped keep the water tables high even during drought years.
Ranchers are very happy to see them return. Carol’s work has been featured in the film The Beaver Whisperers, highlighting her deep involvement in monitoring the impact that planned grazing and returning beaver have had on restoring watersheds, and she emphasizes that good grazing practices are critical to beaver survival in such a dry area. Improving riparian areas has brought more good news as the rare Lahontan cutthroat trout is making a comeback. Trout Unlimited is partnering with ranchers and BLM to monitor their progress. Carol Evans now wants to see improved grazing expanded to increase infiltration into the uplands. The symbiosis of beavers and ranchers creating wetlands might be essential to restoring lands and waters throughout the American West. Rehydrating Nevada will teach us a lot about rehydrating North America.