Conifer removal restores human and wildlife community health

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By Hannah Nikinow, Intermountain West Joint Venture Communications and Marketing Coordinator

Shane Boren is a farmer and rancher in east-central Nevada from a small community near the town of Ely. He works for the region’s power company, volunteers with the area’s conservation district, and recently retired from the county game board after 20 years.

Boren is motivated by some serious changes in his community, both in the area’s landscape health as well as the people that make their living and raise families there.

“The biggest challenge our communities here face is keeping the younger generations around and involved in the ranching and farming,” Boren says. “Keeping families on the land maintains our community structure.”

Healthy landscapes that grow cows and crops are key to keeping families in agricultural businesses. Boren works regularly with Kellie Dobrescu, who is also a member of this region’s working land community, and she is helping do just that. As Wildlife Biologist-Project Implementation Coordinator for the Bristlecone Range, she oversees conservation project planning and develops relationships to grow awareness about available programs.

“My position as a liaison is to reach out to a bunch of different groups, including people like Shane. We work together to pool resources and make projects happen,” she says. “A lot of people don’t know that the federal land management agencies can work with landowners and permittees on projects like conifer removal on public and private land that benefit their bottom line as well as the landscape’s health.”

Dobrescu is a Pheasants Forever employee working out of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) District Office in Ely, Nevada. Her position is supported by several partners including the Intermountain West Joint Venture, the BLM and The Nevada Department of Wildlife.

Dobrescu is key to partner coordination and contracting, as well as helping showcase projects to help expand efforts across landownership boundaries to have a full watershed-scale impact for wildlife and working rangelands. With half of the West being owned and managed by public agencies, highly skilled professionals working on conservation projects continues to be one of the primary needs for implementing restoration and enhancement efforts. This is highlighted by Dobrescu’s position. The BLM office has implemented more conifer removal projects this year than they ever have in the past because of the increased capacity her position brings.

She and Boren frequently collaborate on projects that involve the removal of encroaching conifer trees that are expanding in sagebrush habitats. One example of a collaborative project is the Douglas Canyon Restoration Project that is taking place over multiple years and will treat up to 3,000 acres. Conifer removal projects are implemented by 10-person contract crews and there can be four different crews working at a time. While they are on a project they stay in local hotels, eat at restaurants and frequent other businesses for up to five months of the year.

“The return these conservation projects bring to the community economically is quite significant,” Dobrescu says. “They get tools at our hardware store, fuel for their equipment, buy their groceries, and tons of other amenities. When in our community, they are doing 100 percent of their business in our towns.”


This story originally appeared in the 2021 Fall Issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a Pheasants Forever member today!