Columbia Plateau region of NV is remote and nearly unpopulated, featuring rolling, sagebrush-covered terrain divided by rugged canyons that expose the underlying lava flows that define the landscape. This proposed site revolves around two centers. High Rock Canyon is a rugged, steep defile that shelters nesting raptors of at least five species (Clark 1993) and a large concentration of cliff and violet-green swallows (Clark 1993, Nevada Wilderness 2002, pers. obs. 2002). Desert shrub communities along with adjacent riparian thickets and perennial water in the canyon floor increase habitat complexity and species diversity. On the eastern edge of the proposed area, ephemeral High Rock Lake supports spring migrant waterfowl and shorebirds (Clark 1993) in years with adequate precipitation.
On a larger landscape level, the High Rock area as defined on the attached map supports one of the top 3 sage grouse populations remaining in Nevada (Stiver, pers. comm.). A visit to the area in July 2002 revealed the habitat to be in good condition with only isolated pockets of excessive grazing and little evidence of exotic weeds. The larger landscape contains elements of the East Fork High Rock Canyon Wilderness, High Rock Canyon Wilderness, Little High Rock Canyon Wilderness, and High Rock Lake Wilderness, and cliff habitats and isolated springs in addition to those in High Rock Canyon.
Area provides cliff nesting sites in association with relatively abundant water and food resources, which supports a high density of species dependent on cliff habitats for nesting or for some portion of their life history. In addition, the area sustains one of the best remaining sage grouse populations in the state.
Staggering amounts of habitat are lost each year in the Great Basin to the fire-cheatgrass cycle. What seemed like secure, healthy habitat can be converted to worthless annual grasslands overnight and with a single lightning strike. This threat is stochastic but a significant concern in low-to-mid elevations across the Great Basin. Wilderness status can hamper fire fighting, management, and reclamation of burned landscapes.
The Bureau of Land Management recently revised its Land Use Management Plan for the High Rock area. Private lands include several fairly small, often isolated inholdings. These are likely to be either patented mining claims, or possibly homestead claims associated with water sources.During 2009-2011, the Nevada Land Conservancy (now Nevada Land Trust) acquired several parcels from private landowners and placed them into conservation easements. In 2009, the BLM identified High Rock Canyon as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (AC/EC) and allocated significant funding to address some of the habitat issues found throughout the IBA.
ca. 20% montane shrubland.
Much of the area was designated as Wilderness in a recent round of evaluations and Congressional action. Grazing alotments are active in various parts of the IBA. Though very remote, some hunting occurs in the IBA, probably mostly for Chukar, but potentially for deer as well. Currently, most tourism/recreation is probably of the motorized sort. Roads were "cherry-stemmed" into the Wilderness so numerous travel corridors exist, and are used by 4x4, 4-wheelers, and dirt bikes. Some backcountry recreation occurs, but again, remoteness limits visitation.