The Bureau of Land Management is “chaining” the pinyon and juniper forests in southern Utah in the name of what they call “habitat restoration.” Grand Staircase Escalante is targeted and the forests there are already being destroyed.
What is happening is really habitat destruction of the pinyon and juniper forests and of the soil and more habitat fragmentation.
In Utah, the range and habitat of the sage grouse has been greatly reduced because of fragmentation. Thousands of acres in the Great Basin and the Colorado Plateau are being “chained,” and have already been destroyed. The BLM in the Egan and Johnson Basin district of Nevada has chained large areas.
Heavy anchor chains pulled between two bulldozers destroy the pinyon-juniper forests, taking out sagebrush and other plants in the process. The trees and roots are destroyed and the remains are masticated.
Some birds are ground nesters, others are tree nesters, while cavity nesters use the older trees. Junipers are in the top ten plants for providing food for wildlife according to Ron Johnson, professor emeritus at Clemson University. The junipers provide the main source of food in the winter for some bird species.
The pinyon and juniper forests can be managed properly by leaving some older, mature junipers to remain, then varied habitat is preserved for different animals and birds.
Thin, but do not chain. Some of the slash should be left for cover for new seedlings and for wildlife cover. Leave the sage for the nearly endangered sage grouse.
Just what habitat do they want? Is BLM’s goal to destroy the pinyon and juniper forests for the benefit of cattle grazing in the blazing hot dry deserts of Utah? Got water? No.
I was surprised that my package of pinyon nuts is from Russia. Got pinyon nuts for the birds? No.
Penny Heuscher, Cedaredge, Colo.