Pheasants Forever and its agency partners recently finished juniper removal on BLM property and private lands in Idaho encompassing more than 30,000 acres. The Burley Landscape Juniper Project, part of the 2010 Sage Grouse Initiative, was finished three years ahead of schedule and is a prime example of sage grouse habitat and grazing systems restoration in western landscapes.
Connor White, range and wildlife conservationist with Pheasants Forever, was responsible for much of the contracting work being done for juniper removal. “The work accomplished so far represents a $4 million investment in this important landscape for sage grouse and ranchers,” explained White. “This project benefits grouse habitat by preventing fragmentation while avoiding total loss of working landscapes. What’s good for the bird is good for the herd! We’ve witnessed this with each acre resurrected from juniper invasion.”
Junipers compete for water, nutrients and sunlight with sage brush and other perennials throughout the West. Junipers also increase the risk of avian predation on sage grouse, and kill the understory of plants preferred by the birds for nesting, brooding and rearing young. “Grouse will start avoiding an area with juniper densities as low as three to four trees per acre,” added White.
Partners in the juniper-removal project will start treating 50,000 more acres of rangeland in the Goose Creek Watershed later this summer under a new U.S. Bureau of Land Management environmental assessment. Pheasants Forever will remain responsible for implementation and quality control, ensuring uniform and healthy landscape-level restoration of working lands for wildlife.
Pheasants Forever adds organizational support to SGI – managing funding, administering contracts, and working closely with the Intermountain West Joint Venture to deliver Farm Bill programs to western ranchers. Pheasants Forever administers SGI field staff partnership positions in South Dakota, Nevada, California, Idaho, and Washington who offer technical assistance to farmers and ranchers interested in conserving sage grouse and other wildlife.