The Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly spends its entire lifetime—just one week—within a two-hundred foot radius of its sole food source, a wild buckwheat plant. Found nowhere else in the world, increasing threats to the habitat of this slight, gossamer winged butterfly have sparked a team effort to manage the Sand Mountain Recreation Area, south of Fallon. The Nevada Conservation Corps (NCC), Churchill County, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have joined forces to put into action an interim management strategy for the area.
A popular Off Highway Vehicle destination for enthusiasts on dune buggies, motorcycles, and all terrain vehicles, as well as for hikers, the 4,795-acre Sand Mountain Recreation Area draws as many as 35,000 visitors to its dunes every year. The new management strategy balances recreation use with habitat conservation. Project efforts are aimed at restoring sites selected for their importance to butterfly habitat and providing education and interpretation for Sand Mountain visitors. Working with BLM and the County, NCC crews are rehabilitating areas now closed to OHVs, signing and marking approved OHV routes, placing information kiosks at key access points, and installing new interpretive signs.
While safeguarding the habitat of the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly is the focus of this collaborative conservation effort, the dunes are home to many other native plants and animals. This unique area also boasts the historic Sand Springs Pony Express Station, a remnant of the short-lived (1860-1861) Pony Express system that carried mail across the west, making the site a boon for local history buffs. The project is funded through the State Question 1 grant program and is scheduled for completion in December 2009.
Director of Special Projects, GBI