Skip to main content



NDOW Acquires More than 5,400 Acres of Critical Habitat

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has partnered with Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), Nevada Division of State Lands (NDSL), and private partners to acquire more than 60 parcels of critical habitat and key land assets totaling more than 5,400 acres in White Pine County, Nevada. The acquired properties are located near Ely in both the Schell Creek and Egan Mountain Ranges; and will be managed under the umbrella of the Steptoe Valley Wildlife Management Area, “Mountain Units”. The parcels are scattered throughout Bureau of Land Management and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest lands and are strategically positioned to complement existing State of Nevada land holdings in the area, including Cave Lake State Park. Ultimately, this acquisition ensures that critical wildlife values are conserved in perpetuity, protecting against development risks and allowing for habitat improvement project work to occur, as well as to provide additional recreation opportunities for sportsmen and women and outdoor recreationists. Additionally, NDOW has worked closely with the livestock permittees on the adjacent federal lands to allow for the continuation of managed livestock grazing on the parcels.

Positioned within the Schell Creek Mountain range are parcels located in Duck Creek Basin, which is well known for its large picturesque aspen stands located along Success Loop. This is a popular spot for outdoor recreation, including camping. The property is critical habitat for elk, mule deer, sage-grouse, blue grouse, and a variety of other wildlife species and is in the core of the Area 11 mule deer population, where NDOW biologists consistently survey over 1,000 mule deer on annual composition surveys. Overall, the mule deer in Duck Creek Basin do not have a long migration route, but rather the mule deer transition up and down in elevation (ranging from 6,400 feet to over 11,800 ft) depending on time of year and weather, making this area extremely important mule deer habitat. The central portion of Duck Creek Basin is almost entirely private property. Over past years, portions of the Duck Creek Basin have been subdivided into small ranchettes, breaking up continuity of intact habitat and fragmenting an otherwise continuous block of premier habitat. Specifically, the acquired property has been the subject of several proposals and ideas for development which would disrupt the continuity of habitat blocking transition range and routes, decreasing the overall population and productivity of this herd. This acquisition ensures these important habitats will persist, unfragmented into the future.

The north Egan Range portion of the acquired properties are located in Area 22, having some of the most productive and important summer mule deer habitat in this management unit. Elevations range from 6,400 feet to over 10,900 feet in elevation. Most of the upper elevations, over 7,500 feet, are highly productive summer range for mule deer. Mule deer in this area have an elevational migration and a long north and south migration. Some mule deer will migrate to lower elevations around the Lund area, but most mule deer migrate upwards of 70 miles to winter in the south end of Area 22.

In addition to protecting these properties from development risk, NDOW plans to implement numerous restoration projects to improve and enhance land health and wildlife resource values. Project plans include strategic removal of pinion pine and juniper trees from encroached aspen, spring/meadow, and sagebrush habitats. Additionally, spring, meadow, and aspen protection and enhancement projects, such as installing wildlife friendly fencing, will occur in cooperation with livestock operators to ensure habitat resource values are improved for wildlife while accommodating traditional uses.

This land acquisition will also increase public access and recreational opportunities. Hunting, bird watching, photography, and many other outdoor recreation opportunities are expanded as a result of this acquisition. Dispersed camping is allowed throughout the Steptoe WMA Mountain Unit, with camping limited to designated spots along the Success summit loop to protect sensitive areas and habitat resources.

This acquisition wouldn’t be possible without our partners and stakeholders. We want to extend our thanks and acknowledgment to The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Nevada Division of State lands for their instrumental efforts in providing key technical support throughout the acquisition process, the local endorsement of the project by White Pine County and the funding support from the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners, the Wildlife Sport Fish Restoration Program and sportsmen and women.

We hope you find yourself hunting, camping, and enjoying these newly acquired public lands into the future!

It is the Department desire to “keep working lands working” and NDOW has been working cooperatively with local grazing permittees on the use of these lands and the water, while making them open to the public for enjoyment.