BLM Ely District firefighters

BLM Ely District firefighters sow bitterbrush seed on fire-damaged public lands in the Schell Creek Range.

ELY — Bureau of Land Management Ely District firefighters are using a centuries-old technique to sow bitterbrush seed along the east bench of Nevada’s Schell Creek Range to increase shrub cover on public lands burned by wildfire.

Firefighter James Millar explained, “Just poke a hole in the soil with the planter bar, drop in a few seeds and cover, take five steps forward and repeat the process.”

Chris McVicars, BLM Ely District natural resource specialist, said the seeding is one of several treatments that make up the 3,700-plus acre East Schell Bench Wildlife Habitat Restoration Project. He said the BLM will also aerially seed forbs, grasses and shrubs; plant ephedra, four-wing salt bush, and sagebrush; and treat cheatgrass, and Canada and Musk thistle with herbicide.

“Increasing forb and shrub cover will benefit Greater Sage-Grouse, elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and many other wildlife species. It will also improve rangeland health by increasing soil moisture longevity and reducing erosion,” McVicars said.

The $535,000 project is a collaborative effort by the BLM, Forest Service, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Nevada Division of Forestry, Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, Mule Deer Foundation and local permittees. Funding is provided through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act. Project completion is slated for March 2017. Permanent research plots will monitor the project’s success.