In an effort to find common ground to preserve sagebrush ecosystem in Nevada, federal and state agencies and key stakeholders have agreed to form working groups to identify regulatory flexibility and improve communication and outreach between themselves and the public.

The agreement came from a workshop held in Reno in early December that focused on collaboration. The workshop, which was attended by about 80 people, was organized by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service and the State of Nevada. The primary focus of the workshop was teaching participants how to work with each other in order to find common ground, respect others’ point of view, and effectively manage conflict when dealing with issues related to conservation of the sagebrush ecosystem.

The two and a half day training brought together representatives from federal and state agencies, the State of Nevada, ranching and mining industries and other interests. During a number of sessions participants focused on developing listening skills and learning facilitation techniques that can be used in future meetings related to sage grouse management and sagebrush ecosystem conservation.

“A key part of the workshop was the emphasis on establishing and improving relationships between the agencies and stakeholders, “ said John Ruhs, State Director for the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada. “We also spent time getting to know people as individuals as opposed to just identifying them by their interest or agency.”

Ruhs noted that Nevada is a unique and diverse state characterized by approximately 85 percent public land where implementation of federal policy and regulation is best accomplished by incorporating local science and knowledge.

“In the case of the amendments for the Greater sage grouse plans in Nevada, a collaborative network of local, state and federal partners is essential for protecting the sagebrush ecosystem while ensuring multiple uses,” Ruhs said.

In addition to Ruhs, leadership from the U.S. Forest Service and State of Nevada were also present. Their participation provided the opportunity for leaders to learn about collaboration techniques and listen to the concerns of both employees and the public that will help frame future discussions.

“It was very rewarding to have so many diverse individuals attend,” said Bill Dunkelberger, Forest Supervisor for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. “I’m happy to see such a strong commitment to working together to sustain multiple use benefits from public lands while conserving sagebrush ecosystems.”

The workshop was funded by the BLM’s Collaboration and Alternative Dispute Resolution program, which seeks to expand opportunities and build capacity for effective public involvement and stakeholder engagement, and the BLM National Training Center. During the sessions, participants explored the roots of conflict, identified barriers to collaboration and began to form strategies and actions for addressing issues like Table 2-2 that identifies habitat objectives for Greater sage grouse, finding flexibility in the land use plan amendments, developing and maintaining the Collaborative Network and employing effective internal and external communication and outreach.

“As we continue to work to find solutions to land management issues and concerns, we must first come together and identify a starting point and build a map going forward,” said JJ Goicoechea, Chairman of the Nevada Sagebrush Ecosystem Council. “While this process was just the beginning, there was a collective recognition of key issues to address and an overall feeling that if we don’t collaboratively work toward solutions, we will fail individually,”

For more information on the working groups or to obtain copies of the workshop report, contact Cheva Gabor at chevalgabor@fs.fed.us or 775-224-2777.