Eagles and Agriculture celebrates 10 years of tours
Each year in February a large numbers of eagles flock to the Carson Valley for the calving season. The bald and golden eagles are attracted by the afterbirth left in the field, but an increasing number of visitors are attracted to the raptors themselves .
In 2003, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension teamed up with local ranchers, businesses and nonprofit groups to capitalize on this rare gathering of majestic birds. They launched tours and related events that are held in conjunction with the calving season, and the event came to known as Eagles and Agriculture. This month it celebrates its 10th anniversary when the program is held from Feb. 24-26.
Cooperative Extension Douglas County Extension Educator Steve Lewis, said Eagles and Agriculture is aimed at educating Nevadans while creating economic opportunities in Douglas County.
“Eagles and Agriculture is meant to encourage the conservation and prosperity of agriculture in western Nevada, create and demonstrate sustainable agricultural tourism, promote the benefits of agriculture and wildlife relationships, and educate Nevadans about the history of agriculture and eagle habitats in Douglas County,” Lewis said.
To launch the program, Lewis worked with a variety of groups, including the American Land Conservancy, Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Authority, a group of Carson Valley ranchers, Western Nevada Resource Conservation and Development, and the Smallwood Foundation. Over the years, the tours have been complemented with a number of other events to celebrate the historic and economic role agriculture plays in Carson Valley.
Lewis said there is a common misconception that agriculture is harmful to native environments and ecosystems. Eagles and Agriculture serves as an opportunity to highlight the connection ranchers have to native species.
“There is a myth that agriculture and the environment are in conflict,” said Lewis. “In reality, nature and agriculture often work hand in hand. This program draws attention to the fact that agriculture attracts and supports wildlife.”
The three-day Eagles and Agriculture event includes bus tours of the Carson Valley and participating ranches, raptor and “owl prowl” highway and byway tours, a photo workshop, guest speaker presentations, falconer demonstrations, community vendors and crafts, luncheons and dinners, as well as river rafting and kayaking on the Carson River. Two $125 prizes will also be awarded to the best bird and wildlife photographs taken during the tour.
Over the last nine years, nearly 4,500 participants have attended the Eagles and Agriculture tours, and the event brings an estimated $1.4 million annually to the local economy. According to Lewis, the tours have increased participants’ understanding of agricultural/environmental relations while simultaneously creating an event that brings the community together. Already, programs modeled after Eagles and Agriculture are emerging in rural communities, such as the “Bird, Barns and BBQ” program in Sierra Valley in California.