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October 17, 2018

Sage Grouse Conservation Efforts Attract Nevada Law Students

The in-the-field course introduced students to important natural resource management concepts

Students spent the afternoon in the field getting a first-hand look at on-the-ground mitigation projects. They were able to meet one of Barrick’s friendly neighbors, George, during their tour.

Barrick’s JD Ranch hosted law students from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ (UNLV) William S. Boyd School of Law last week as part of the university’s natural resource field seminar. Students learned about Barrick’s sage grouse Bank Enabling Agreement (BEA), and saw first-hand how public-private conservation projects help to manage important conservation issues, like sage grouse habitat, across the boundaries of land ownership.

Led by UNLV law professor Bret Birdsong, the in-the-field course introduced students to important natural resource management concepts and program implementation such as Barrick’s sage grouse conservation efforts. The BEA is a voluntary agreement between Barrick and the U.S. Department of Interior to mitigate the loss of sage grouse habitat resulting from operations.

Nobody can look at the legal and regulatory framework involving mining and species protection and know for sure where the lines of authority are or will be in the future.

UNLV law students spent the day at Barrick’s JD Ranch learning about public-private conservation projects that help to manage important conservation issues.

“Visiting the JD Ranch with Barrick was a wonderful way for students to see both the multiple complexities of sage grouse conservation and to glimpse the actual lands on which the legal issues play out,” explained Birdsong.

Birdsong, who previously served as Deputy Solicitor for Land Resources at the U.S. Department of the Interior, provided counsel to the Secretary of the Interior and worked directly on the development of the BEA with Barrick in 2012.

“I know firsthand some of the innovative work Barrick is doing on sage grouse mitigation,” describes Birdsong. “When the BEA was being developed, I helped negotiate the agreement on behalf of the Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service. I want my students to experience on-the-ground examples of complex legal issues that underlie complex conservation initiatives like the sage-grouse BEA,” Birdsong said.

Gail Ross, Barrick’s biological and ecological sciences manager, shared with students the mapping system that shows sage grouse habitats.

“Not only does the BEA hold promise for science-driven conservation, but it demonstrates one strategy for the parties to the agreement to manage legal risk. Nobody can look at the legal and regulatory framework involving mining and species protection and know for sure where the lines of authority are or will be in the future. The BEA is a creative way for all the parties—Barrick and the federal government—to create some predictability out of ambiguity,” Birdsong added.

Also attending the field day was Barrick’s Biological and Ecological Sciences Manager, Gail Ross. Ross explains how Barrick’s BEA is beneficial for sage grouse conservation because the process developed by The Nature Conservancy helps us identify at a landscape level where we need to focus restoration in areas which are most important for sage grouse.

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