riparian meadow

Citizen Spring Inventory

Citizen Spring Inventory Program

The citizen spring inventory program was developed jointly by the Winnemucca District of the Bureau of Land Management, the Desert Research Institute, Friends of Nevada Wilderness, and Friends of Black Rock – High Rock.  The program enlists citizens of all backgrounds and interests to collect qualitative data on the health of over 9,000 springs that occur across the 11-million-acre Winnemucca District. 

These springs are often remote, nestled in mountainous clefts or quietly burbling up at the base of unnamed ranges. They are direct evidence of the thinness of continental crust in the Great Basin: groundwater doesn’t sink far before it’s heated by mantle rock and pushed back to the surface. Here springs manage to be both incongruous—perennial water in the desert?—and far from anomalous, judging by their sheer prevalence throughout the district. Thousands of springs dot the desert, awaiting documentation by the intrepid citizen scientist.

Each spring represents a wealth of untold information. What plant species grow there? Are wildlife present, or their signs? Do the waters yield aquatic organisms, such as snails or crustaceans? The data collected will allow the Bureau of Land Management to make more informed management decisions, adding invaluably to the ever-growing spring inventory.   

Why are desert springs so important?

Springs are bona fide oases. They provide essential habitat for wildlife such as bighorn sheep, sage grouse and migratory birds.  Out of the roughly 170 species endemic to Nevada (i.e., they live nowhere else on earth), 163 are found exclusively in springs.  One especially endearing Nevada endemic is the desert dace, a tiny minnow restricted to hot springs and creeks in Soldier Meadows.

Threats to springs:

  • Grazing
  • Climate Change
  • Development
  • Groundwater pumping
  • Invasive species

To become a citizen scientist:

  • Attend a training
  • Choose where you would like to explore on the spring map below
  • Decide on a time that works for you (any day(s) from February through October – weather dependent)
  • Contact Friends of Black Rock High Rock or Friends of Nevada Wilderness staff to arrange to pick up a spring monitoring kit and get maps
  • Pick up and check out a spring monitoring kit from the Friends of Black Rock office in Gerlach or the Friends of Nevada Wilderness office in Reno

Citizen Spring Inventory protocol, training videos and blog:

The following map will allow YOU the citizen scientist to explore and choose your next citizen spring inventory adventure! The blue dots represent potential spring points that need baseline spring inventory data. The green, red and yellow balloons represent springs that have been inventoried by the citizen spring inventory program.

If you would like to volunteer for the citizen spring inventory program contact Michael Myers at m.myers@blackrockdesert.org.

Citizen Spring Inventory Partners:

FNW-2013