In a recent interview, Bureau of Land Management Acting Director William Pendley claims that the BLM is justified in the large-scale mechanical removal of pinyon-juniper forests because they are not good for habitat, wildlife or people, and that these forests have encroached onto rangelands that were once dominated by sagebrush.

In reality, pinyon pine and juniper forests are native to the Colorado plateau and provide critical habitat for native wildlife. He claims that only sagebrush “greeted pioneers,” when in fact those same pioneers actually relied on wood from the native pinyon and juniper forests, and he ignores the Indigenous people of the Colorado plateau who have been using pinyon pine and juniper trees for hundreds of generations.

Pendley provides no scientific evidence for his assertions, and the science actually shows that large-scale mechanical removal of native vegetation disturbs fragile soils, harms native wildlife habitat, increases invasive species like cheatgrass prone to wildfire. At best, large-scale vegetation removal results in widely inconsistent results. And yet, the BLM is expediting removal of pinyon and juniper forests without adequate scientific review and public input. We must demand greater transparency from Pendley and the BLM before these harmful projects are allowed to move forward.

Shaina Maytum, Carbondale, Colo.