The valley between Reno and Carson City is noted for its green ranchlands, Washoe Lake and the majestic Sierras. At the northwestern tip the valley is the Winters Ranch, a property managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Previously the ranch home of Theodore and Maggie Winters and their children, the Winters family raised race horses on the property, in addition to raising beef cattle and operating a large dairy in the late 19th century. The property, adjacent to US Highway 395, was recently acquired by the BLM for open space and recreation.
There has been substantial urban growth in Washoe County in recent decades. The publicly owned Winters Ranch, however, offers open space and wildlife habitat in an area with increasing population density. The ranch was previously grazed and irrigated, but removing grazing and irrigation from the property has altered the property’s plant communities. Because of the site’s new open-space designation, science-based information was needed to best understand how to transition this once agricultural land to a public property.
The BLM called upon University researcher Tamzen Stringham, professor in the Department of Agriculture, Nutrition and Veterinary Science, for help.
The result was a research partnership that is helping to develop plans for the ranch’s future.
Stringham and rangeland botanist Erica Freese mapped groundwater-plant relationships at the ranch in order to best manage the property’s natural resources for future use. Plans for management treatments, such as herbicides and controlled burning, are being developed to help promote the desired plant community. Stringham has extensive experience in riparian and rangeland restoration and management. Her studies have been used at numerous meadow sites around the West over the last 15 years.
“This research will facilitate BLM’s goals of understanding the ecological processes occurring on Winters Ranch and the impact these processes have on wildlife habitat,” Stringham says.
Although the project is local to northern Nevada, Stringham says data will also be used outside of the state in order to benefit lands that were once irrigated agricultural lands and are now in transition.
“Increasing knowledge of plant community dynamics will also enhance understanding of other meadow locations in the West where irrigation is removed or where there is a decline in the water table,” Stringham explains.
This project shows that research partnerships even at the local level can have broader impacts. It is the nature of collaboration among researchers and government agencies that allows for this to occur.