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Management of the Pinon-Juniper Rangelands

Pinon-Juniper woodland. The pinon-juniper woodland is a wide spread vegetation type covering 20-30 millions hectares (Tausch and Tueller, 1990). The management of the Pinon-Juniper Rangeland on the National Forest in the Rocky Mountain Southwest has presented significant challenges for natural resource managers for many years. The once open pinon-juniper woodlands have become dense stands of trees devoid of grasses and vegetation. The productive soils beneath these stands have eroded and left extensive rills and gullies.

Managers addressed these issue in the 1950s and 1960s in the mass clearing of many thousands of acres of pinon-juniper woodlands. They used various methods including chaining, cabling, pushing, rotochopping, and root plowing. The success of these type conversions were only temporary with the trees reinvading the areas previously controlled. The lack of success has been primarily due to the lack of maintenance and further control projects. Younger trees have been allowed to reinvade the areas. In some cases, grazing was allowed to continue without the control of the numbers of livestock. An increase in the grazing capacity was anticipated and grazing numbers were increased in these areas.

In the 1970s, the methodology and the management became more sophisticated and expensive. Large tree crushers were employed to control the pinon juniper in Northern New Mexico. These control projects were followed by grubbing of individual trees, fuelwood sales and broadcast burns. Grazing management in these units required the coordination of livestock grazing in these control pastures.

In the 1980s and 1990s funding was reduced for these type of projects because of the investment cost, because of the high demand for fuelwood and the increased efforts in broadcast burns.

At a time when the federal government is being downsized and the work force is being reduced, efforts to control the invasion of pinon-juniper have been renewed by natural resource managers and the local community. Land managers, grazing permittees, cooperating agencies and environmental groups have become concerned with the continued encroachment of pinon-juniper into the rangeland, the lost of the winter range habitat and the productivity of the rangeland.

Should we expend more of our limited funding, trying to control species that will naturally reestablish itself over the years? The local communities have responded to this question with a resounding yes.

Community efforts have been undertaken to deal with these problems. The examples include:

  • The Carizzo Demonstration Area
    A pinon-juniper ecosystem restoration project on the Lincoln National Forest.
  • The Cantebury Project
    A pinon-juniper ecosystem restoration project on private land adjacent to the San Carlos Resource Area (Bureau of Land Management) and the San Isabel National Forest.

Tausch, R. and Tueller, P. 1990. Foliage biomass and cover relationships between tree and shrub-dominated communities in pinyon-juniper woodlands. Great Basin Naturalist. 50: 121-134.

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Last modified: Tuesday, 13-Sep-2016 11:38:12 CDT