BLM thinning pinyon-juniper stands near Rifle Gap | PostIndependent.com

BLM thinning pinyon-juniper stands near Rifle Gap

To help wildlife and decrease the risk of wildfire, wildlife personnel will begin thinning pinyon-juniper on Cedar Mountain this week.

The land is about 1.5 miles north of Rifle Gap Reservoir.

Bureau of Land Management expects the hand crews to continue working throughout about 141 acres, according to a BLM news release. In early October, they will then begin mechanical work to thin pinyon-juniper in smaller patches totaling 233 acres and will also create openings in thick stands of mountain shrubs across 149 acres.

"Working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and a host of partners, we've identified this area as a priority to improve big game habitat," wildlife biologist Hilary Boyd with the BLM Colorado River Valley field office said in the news release. "We are targeting young pinyon and juniper trees that are moving into sagebrush meadows, as well as creating a patchwork of openings in the areas of thick mountain shrub stands."

“This technique has been widely successful in western Colorado for improving wildlife habitat and reducing large wildfire risk. The short-term impact to the area will result in a decade or more of great habitat for mule deer, elk and other wildlife.”

— Hilary Boyd,wildlife biologist, BLM Colorado River Valley field office

Sagebrush meadows provide key winter forage for mule deer and elk, but can be overtaken by pinyon and juniper. The resulting new plant growth will provide better food and access for wildlife in the area. The breaks in continuous vegetation will also lessen the risk of large, unwanted wildfires.

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"This technique has been widely successful in western Colorado for improving wildlife habitat and reducing large wildfire risk," Boyd said. "The short-term impact to the area will result in a decade or more of great habitat for mule deer, elk and other wildlife."

The Pass the Buck Chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation in Rifle is paying for the work of the hand crews. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Muley Fanatic Foundation, CPW Habitat Partnership Program and CPW Big Game Auction and Raffle Program are paying for the mechanical treatments.

"This is just one of seven projects in northwest Colorado where MDF is cooperating with BLM," said Miles Moretti, president/CEO of the Mule Deer Foundation. "Our partnership with BLM continues to grow, and we look forward to future projects that will not only benefit mule deer but all wildlife."

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