45 wildfires in 10 years; BLM conducts invasive tree removal

A bullhog is used by the Bureau of Land Management to remove pinyon and juniper trees and reduce fire danger in the Three Peaks Recreation Area, Cedar City, Utah, March 2016 | Photo courtesy of Bureau of Land Management, St. George News

CEDAR CITY – The Bureau of Land Management will begin removing pinyon and juniper trees in the Three Peaks Recreation Area starting April 1 to reduce the risk of wildfires.  

Approximately 45 small wildfires have burned in the Three Peaks Recreation Area over the past 10 years. Fires are marked by a red dot; the area planned for tree removal is seen in green | Map courtesy of Bureau of Land Management, St. George News

About 307 acres of invasive pinyon and juniper trees will be removed mechanically from the recreation area, which is managed by BLM.

Approximately 45 small wildfires have occurred in the area over the past 10 years, BLM fire mitigation specialist Nick Howell said. 

The tree removal project will help reduce fire risk and protect nearby homes in Cedar City, Enoch and other neighboring communities, as well as the recreation area itself. 

The project is the second phase of a multiyear effort by the BLM Color Country District to restore rangeland west of Cedar City and the Cedar Valley Estates subdivision. The project is also designed to improve watershed conditions.

 By removing encroaching pinyon and juniper trees, favorable shrubs and grasses will return to the site, increasing rangeland productivity,” BLM natural resource specialist Melanie Mendenhall said in a statement. 

Map of BLM project area in Three Peaks Recreation Area near Cedar City | Photo courtesy of BLM, St. George News

Pinyon and juniper encroachment is a priority for the BLM, Howell said, because the trees are outcompeting understory vegetation that is critical to wildlife and healthy ecosystems.

One of the primary reasons this is happening is due to hundreds of years of aggressive firefighting,” Howell said. “This created in large part the ecological imbalance we see throughout the West today.”

Landscape restoration projects, including the one at Three Peaks, are supported and funded by Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative, Howell said.  

The watershed initiative is sponsored by the Utah Partners for Conservation and Development, which consists of private, state and federal groups, including the Mule Deer Foundation, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Safari Club International, Utah Forestry Fire and State Lands and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. 

 “For every dollar that BLM brings to the table, partners match those contributions, and we get a larger ‘bang for the buck,'” Howell said.

The project is expected to be completed in summer 2017.  Visitors to the recreation area are asked to adhere to safety signs surrounding the treatment area; however, no road closures are expected.

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  • The Dude March 22, 2017 at 7:17 am

    So we are going to mechanically remove trees that fire would keep out to prevent fires. Sounds logical, in a governmental way. (Emphasis on mental) Wonder who’s cousin got the contract for this job.

  • wilbur March 22, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Cheat grass will repopulate the spaces where the trees were, further raising the fire danger in electrical storms.

    Gub’mint thinking at best.

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