On fire

Conference to discuss effects of fire on the Great Basin

Mike Collopy is an organizer of this year’s Great Basin Consortium Conference.

Mike Collopy is an organizer of this year’s Great Basin Consortium Conference.

Photo By Sage Leehey

For more information about the Great Basin Consortium, visit environment.unr.edu/consortium.

Great Basin environmental issues including sage-grouse conservation, wildfires, habitat loss, and climate change will be discussed at the Great Basin Consortium’s third annual conference on Dec. 9 and 10.

The conference will take place at the Joe Crowley Student Union at the University of Nevada, Reno. The Great Basin Consortium is comprised of six separate organizations concerned with education, research and outreach for environmental issues in the Great Basin region. These six organizations are: Great Basin Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (GB-CESU), Great Basin Environmental Program, Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Great Basin Restoration Initiative, Great Basin Research and Management Partnership, and Great Basin Fire Science Delivery.

“One of our primary objectives with this consortium is to try to get people to articulate what their priorities are in terms of what they would like to get done,” said Mike Collopy, assistant vice president for research at UNR and director of GB-CESU. “And then identify people in the audience or people that we know that maybe can’t make the meeting to see if we can get them to commit to help.”

The conference is open to the public and will include business meetings for each organization, a keynote speech by Nevada state director of the Bureau of Land Management Amy Lueders, five sessions with presentations and discussion among other sessions and speakers. Collopy said that in the past, the conference has hosted between 150 to 190 attendees from various groups in the community, including ranchers, farmers, students and faculty from the university, government workers and everything in between.

The conference is titled “The Great Basin: A Landscape Under Fire,” so much of the discussion will revolve around fire and the effects it has on the Great Basin landscapes and species. Fire will be the primary focus of the meeting because of how the Great Basin is affected by fire, but sage-grouse and other emerging and high priority issues in the area are important as well, according to Collopy. There will also be sessions about climate change, the Joint Fire Science Program in the region, and how fire has changed landscapes.

“Not everything that’s going to be discussed in the meeting will be fire, but fire is such a driving influence out there, especially when you have a drought, and you have a lot of invasive plants that tend to be very flammable, and then you have species like sage-grouse that are declining in numbers, and Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to decide whether they deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act,” Collopy said.

The Great Basin Consortium was created to keep the public, interested students, faculty and researchers, government agencies, and politicians informed about what these organizations are doing in the Great Basin and what needs to be done. Collopy said that this conference is a great place to learn and talk about what’s important and what’s going on in the Great Basin.

“We really want students, faculty, the public—anyone who has any interest in it to attend,” Collopy said. “I think it’s really great to stimulate the conversation across the board.”