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    In Elko County, Nevada, grazing practices on federal and private lands began to change in the early 1990s to restore proper functioning condition to degraded riparian areas that provide habitat for Lahontan cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii henshawi), which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Changes in grazing management focused on changing the frequency and duration of hot-season grazing in riparian areas. These changes led to the recovery of riparian vegetation accompanied by the natural colonization of streams by beavers. Beavers and their dams, in turn, have enhanced the restoration process. People interviewed for this study observed more water in streams, and water available later into the dry season and during drought years, as one consequence of beaver colonization. They also observed the expansion of green zones in riparian corridors, including more wet meadows and riparian vegetation. Ranchers interviewed identified many benefits of beavers for their ranching operations, especially increased water availability and forage production for livestock. These changes improve livestock health and weight gains, which may translate into financial gains. Ranchers also described drawbacks of beavers, most notably their tendency to dam up irrigation canals that run through hay fields, impeding the flow of water. However, most ranchers believed the benefits of beavers outweigh the drawbacks. Variables that have contributed to successful riparian revegetation as an approach to beaver-related restoration in Elko County include low harvest pressure on beavers, large ranch size, compatible grazing practices, agency and permittee flexibility to try new approaches, strong collaborative relations among agency staff and permittees fostered through long-term relationship building, peer learning through site visits to ranches that demonstrate the benefits of changing grazing management, and research and monitoring to document project outcomes.

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    Charnley, Susan. 2019. If you build it, they will come: ranching, riparian revegetation, and beaver colonization in Elko County, Nevada. Res. Pap. PNW-RP-614. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 39 p.


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    Beavers, ranchers, grazing, range management, watershed restoration, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service

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