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Eagles And Ag Highlights Ranching, Conservation In Carson Valley

The Carson Valley just hosted its Eagles and Agriculture event for the sixteenth year, helping passers-by see eagles and other birds that populate the area in the winter months. Holly Hutchings reports.

On a recent Eagles and Agriculture tour, visitors walk the gravel paths at The Dangberg Ranch, listening to volunteers like Debbie Zalmana and looking for eagles.

Calving season takes place each winter here. When cows give birth, baby calves are not all that’s left behind. The afterbirth that once sustained them in gestation gets a kind of repurposing and becomes food for eagles and other birds migrating through.

At another stop on the tour, Duane Petite, Carson River Project Director, stands on the stone patio at the Nature Conservancy in Genoa where he works. He is overlooking the 800-acre preserve and sharing all he knows about birds.

“You know, the bottom line is, you're more apt to care about something and protect it if you see it,” Petite said. “And they're getting a chance on this festival to see the bald eagles out in the habitat; nesting, flying, eating in the fields. The guests that are on this festival can see visually that connection between ranching and wildlife.”

Credit Holly Hutchings

Petite says there have been fewer bald eagles this year, but they have seen an abundance of ferruginous hawks, red-tailed hawks and the first sandhill crane of the season. He says this weekend raises an awareness of what the birds need to live and of their life cycles.

That’s what organizers hoped when they created Eagles and Ag in 2002.

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension educator Steve Lewis has seen this event through since day one with the goal of educating people about, not only the eagles, but the impact they have on the region.

“Unless you have a hook of sorts, you can't get people to listen, to want to know more! And it seems the eagles do that,” Lewis said. “This is an agri-tourism event. In other words, agriculture is drawing people into our community. Not only locals but people from afar as well, so that they get a better sense, so we can teach them. So, we can have the opportunity to entertain. It's called edutainment, edu-tainment.”

“Wow, what is that?!”

Linda Wright and her husband are here from Weaverville, California. The Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce estimates that half of the nearly 400 visitors are locals, and half come from outside Northern Nevada. The mountainous Minden area appeals to Wright, and she entertains the idea of even relocating there in the future.

“I love to come here to shop,” Wright said. “We go to movies. I'd actually like to move to the Reno area or possibly Minden because it has the best of both worlds. We live in a small rural area, and it feels like that here but we'd still have the services of an urban area. So, I like that.”

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension estimates the event brings in around two hundred seventy-five thousand dollars annually, but the value extends beyond economics.

“These ranches are important to the habitat, they’re important for the flood plan and they’re important for the critters. And they’re part of our ranching legacy.”

That’s Duane Petite again at the Nature Conservancy, which sits next to a property called Ranch Number One. The family operation partners with the conservancy extensively. Anna Lekumberry is preparing to take over the ranch from her parents one day. She says there’s an old notion that ranches and conservancies have a difficult relationship.

Credit Holly Hutchings

“A lot of nature conservancy systems and ranching systems don’t tend to naturally get along with each other because you have ranchers who think the cattle are the solution and they've been working the land for this long, but then you have the nature conservancy who wants to protect and keep nature and keep habitat and stuff like that,” Lekumberry said.

Despite the differences between ranchers and conservationists in the valley, many say that events like this one help bring everyone into the conversation.

For Reno Public Radio News, I’m Holly Hutchings.

Holly Hutchings is a senior at the Reynolds School of Journalism.

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