Need For Project:
This project will address the need to remove encroaching late phase II early phase III pinyon-juniper through a two-way chaining, helping to increase the understory of grasses, forbs and shrubs that are lacking. This will be done through a mechanical treatment using an "Ely type anchor chain that will remove trees, creating a good seed bed prep for the seeded species of grasses, forbs and shrubs. This area has little to no understory of perennial grasses, forbs and shrubs due to the mature pinyon-juniper trees within this treatment area. We are looking at elk numbers below objective on this unit are are looking for ways to improve no functioning habitats in critical areas. Some of the overall need of this project will be to implement
Range Improvements that will maintain and/or enhance forage production on elk summer and winter range throughout the units. Coordinate with the USFS, SITLA, BLM and private land owners to complete projects designed to improve forage production for both elk and livestock and to improve elk distribution across the unit. Additionally, the potential to increase forage for wintering deer and elk is substantial and can be gained by the removal of encroached pinyon and juniper trees that are very pronounced along benches and flats of the Boulder Plateau.
Encroachment by pinyon-juniper woodland communities also poses a substantial threat to important sagebrush rangelands. Pinyon-juniper woodlands dominate the vegetation coverage within the deer winter range on WMU 25C. Encroachment and invasion of these woodlands into sagebrush communities has been shown to decrease the sagebrush and herbaceous components, and therefore decreases available forage for wildlife (Miller, Svejcar, & Rose, 2000).
Objectives for this WRI project will consist of removal of approximately 836 acres of phase III pinyon-juniper trees and aerially reseeding grass, forbs and shrub components within the Center Creek Project, this will be done through the use of a two-way chaining project, this will allow for the removal of over 70 - 80% of the pinyon-juniper within the treatment area. This project will address the reduction of increased soil erosion and the lack of herbaceous understory within the project site. Aerially re-seeding this site will increase the forage for wildlife species and domestic livestock in the future. We are looking to obtain a greater increase value of grasses, forbs and shrubs in the treatment area, expecting to gain upwards of 800-1,000 lb of forage per acre that will sustain wildlife and livestock in the grazing allotment.
Limiting Factors to Big Game Habitat
The Boulder Plateau and the surrounding winter range have many land uses within the unit that can be harmonious with the management of big game habitat while other land practices may negatively affect its management within the unit. There is ample range for deer in normal winters. Only in severe winters when the usable range may become limited. Additionally, the potential to increase forage for wintering deer and elk is substantial and can be gained by the removal of encroached pinyon and juniper trees that are very pronounced along benches and flats of the Boulder Plateau. Encroachment by pinyon-juniper woodland communities also poses a substantial threat to important sagebrush rangelands. Pinyon-juniper woodlands dominate the vegetation coverage within the deer winter range on WMU 25C. Encroachment and invasion of these woodlands into sagebrush communities has been shown to decrease the sagebrush and herbaceous components, and therefore decreases available forage for wildlife (Miller, Svejcar, & Rose, 2000). Treatments to reduce pinyon-juniper woodlands such as bullhog, chaining, brush saw, and lop-and-scatter are the next most common management practices. Other common management treatments are those to rejuvenate sagebrush stands such as chaining and harrow treatments. Within the Fishlake/Boulder Unit 25-C. In looking at the range trend site with both Center Creek and North Creek the site are stable with slight trend upwards in grasses, and forbs. With this chaining project we hope to continue the trend and expect the establishment of grasses and forbs to increase across the landscape for additional wildlife and livestock forage.
Threats / Risks:
This project will address the threats of increasing pinyon-juniper, decreasing plant understory, risk of wildland fire frequency, and increased possibility of invasive species increasing on the landscape. By implementing this project the risk of increasing pinyon-juniper species will be addressed, and improved grass, forbs and shrub species will be increased and removal of pinyon-juniper stands will allow for reduced fire hazard and improved rangeland use by wildlife and livestock.
No action on this project will allow for increased invasive grass and noxious weed species, along with increasing size and structure of pinyon-juniper encroachment, increased soil erosion with no productive herbaceous understory or shrubs within this rangeland site. Phase III pinyon-juniper reduces the native understory of grasses, forbs and shrub plant species, reducing pinyon-juniper will allow for shrub, forbs and grasses species to respond within the treatment site. With a good treatment and a aggressive seed mix we can hold off invasive noxious weed and grass species such as Cheatgrass. Fire in this area is also a concern, over the last couple of years the BLM has treated several thousands of acres to help reduce the potential for wildfire in this area, this has been done through chaining and bullhog type work.
**I have uploaded the Garfield County Resources Management plan as it relates to soil and the results we will have if we don't treat areas like this. We are allowing additional soil erosion to occur as well as not being able to treat the land in a positive way, allowing for improvement of new grasses, forbs and shrubs to be planted and consumed in future years buy livestock and wildlife.
Relation To Management Plan:
The pinyon-juniper and big sagebrush areas lie within the sagebrush steppe type which is one of the key habitats identified in the Wildlife Action Plan (WAP).
The proposed projects will address some of the habitat management strategies outlined in the deer and elk management plans for herd unit 25C (Plateau Boulder Unit ) including: Continue to improve and restore sagebrush steppe habitats critical to deer according to DWRs Habitat Initiative. Maintain habitat quantity and quality at a level adequate to support the stated population objectives while at the same time not resulting in an overall downward trend in range condition and watershed quality. Work cooperatively with land management agencies and private landowners to plan and implement improvement projects for the purpose of enhancing wildlife habitat and range resources in general.
*The project also helps fulfill the state mule deer management plan section IV Habitat Goal: Conserve and improve mule deer habitat throughout the state with emphasis on crucial ranges.
*The proposed projects will address the following goals and objectives of the Division of Wildlife Resources most recent strategic management plan: Resource Goal: expand wildlife populations and conserve sensitive species by protecting and improving wildlife habitat.
Objective 1: protect existing wildlife habitat and improve 500,000 acres of critical habitats and watersheds throughout the state.
Objective 3: conserve sensitive species to prevent them from becoming listed as threatened or endangered.
*Constituency Goal: Achieve broad-based support for Division programs and budgets by demonstrating the value of wildlife to all citizens of Utah.
Objective 2: improve communication with wildlife organizations, public officials, private landowners, and government agencies to obtain support for Division programs.
*UDWR SR critical big game winter range are important browse communities that need to be enhanced and improved. The Division will employ a variety of methods to achieve this including prescribed grazing, prescribed burning, reseeding and seedling transplants, also mechanical treatments. Priority areas will include sagebrush-steppe and mountain browse communities. Falls within the rangeland focus area for WRI wildlife species for mule deer and elk.
*NRCS has also identified that the removal of pinyon-juniper trees is critical as it pertains to Greater Sage Grouse and the SGI Initiative working on Private, State and Federal Lands to reduce avian predation and elevated structures.
*Utah has finalized it's Sage Grouse Management plan and enclosed are related goals and objectives from that plan that are associated with SGMA's (Parker Mountain-Emery):
#1) Protection of habitat that provides year round use.
#2) Ensure recruitment of a continuing population.
#3) Enhance or Improve sage grouse habitat
#4) Protect 10,000 acres on SITLA through habitat restoration practices.
#5) Enhance 25,000 acres annually with a SGMA.
#6) Increase 50,000 acres annually through management actions (prescribed grazing, invasive weed control, pj removal)
#7) Removal of encroaching PJ along with improved water development in wet meadows ponds and spring sites.
RICHFIELD FIELD OFFICE RMP (2008):
- pg 78 Vegetation Objectives - A. Manage for a mix of vegetative types, structural stages, and provide for native plant, fish, and wildlife habitats. B. Sustain or reestablish the integrity of the sagebrush biome to provide the amount, continuity, and quality of habitat that is necessary to maintain sustainable populations of Greater sage-grouse and other sagebrush-dependent wildlife species.
- Management actions - VEG-1. Treat areas determined to need reseeding with a variety of plant species that are desirable for wildlife habitat, livestock, watershed management, and other resource values while maintaining vegetation species diversity. VEG-3. Maintain existing vegetative treatments to provide suitable habitats for wildlife and adequate forage for livestock. VEG-4. Implement additional vegetation treatments to achieve Standards for Rangeland Health and desired vegetation condition. Vegetation treatments could be conducted up to 1,472,000 acres over the life of the plan. These acreage figures include all vegetation and fire fuels treatments.
-Special Status Species Goals and Objectives - A. Manage, minimize, and mitigate impacts to plant, fish, and animal species and habitats so the need to list any of these species as threatened or endangered does not become necessary.
- Mgmt Actions -SSS-1. For listed species that do not have designated critical habitat, cooperate with the USFWS and other agencies, such as the UDWR, in managing the species and their habitat. SSS-6. Maintain the integrity of SSS habitat to provide the quantity, continuity, and quality of habitat necessary to maintain SSS populations.
- pg 92 Fish and Wildlife goals and objectives - A. Maintain, restore, protect, and enhance habitats to support healthy populations of diverse fish and wildlife species, recognizing crucial habitats as management priorities. B. Manage habitat to prevent additional listings of species under the federal ESA, or the State of Utah's Species of Concern List.
MANAGEMENT ACTIONS: a. Treat areas determined to need reseeding with a variety of plant species that are desirable for wildlife habitat, livestock, watershed management, and other resource values while maintaining vegetation species diversity.
b. implement additional treatments to achieve Standards for Rangeland Health and desired vegetation condition. Vegetation treatments could be conducted on up to 1,472,000 acres over the life of the plan. These acreage figures include all vegetation and fire fuels treatments.
Central Utah FMP:
- Greater use of vegetation management to meet resource management objectives.
- Hazardous fuels treatments will be used to restore ecosystems; protect human, natural and cultural resources; and reduce the threat of wildfire to communities.
- Sagebrush/steppe communities will be a high priority for ESR and fuel reduction to avoid catastrophic fires in these areas.
Utah Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy:
- This places the shrubsteppe into a "key" habitat type
- Shrubsteppe habitat should be a target for restoration and conservation.
- Recommends where decadent pinyon juniper has increased into shrubsteppe due to lack of disturbance to disturb the decadent vegetation.
Deer Herd Unit Management Plan (#25C/26 Plateau/Kaiparowits) -
- LIMITING FACTORS: The major concern throughout the unit is encroaching pinyon pine and juniper forest.
- HABITAT MANAGEMENT OBJECTIVES: Encourage vegetation manipulation projects and seeding to increase the availability, abundance and nutritional content of browse, grass, and forb species.
- PERMANENT RANGE TREND SUMMARIES: Thick stands dominate much of the critical winter range limiting the winter carrying capacity for big game. There is a great potential to provide more forage for big game by treating the thick stands of PJ.
ELK HEARD UNIT MANAGEMENT PLAN (#25C/26 -Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits).
- Unit Management Goals: Conduct habitat projects to curb the invasion of PJ on winter range areas. Return these areas to productive plant communities - Unit Management Objectives: Habitat -a. Develop cooperative programs... with emphasis on high use areas, especially where we can entice animals away from agricultural depredation problem areas.
b. Encourage vegetation manipulation projects and seeding to increase the availability, abundance and nutritional content of browse, grass, and forb species.
c. Discourage the encroachment of PJ into sagebrush... Seek opportunities to improve habitat through...mechanical treatments to improve habitat where p/j encroachment is occurring.
- ACTIONS TO REMOVE HABITAT BARRIERS: Maintain and/or enhance forage production through habitat improvement projects throughout the unit on winter range to achieve population management objectives.
Work with private and federal agencies to maintain and protect crucial and existing
SITLA Management Plans:
Correspond with the Utah Code Title 53C Chapter Five Section 101, 102 and 103 in accordance with Management of Rangeland Resources
Utah Adminstrative Code R850-50-1100 Range Improvement Projects within the SITLA Property.
**I have also included Garfield County Plans and State of Utah Resources Management Plan Edits in the Documents Tab.
Fire / Fuels:
This project will have the ability to reduce fuel loading through the process of removing the pinyon-junpier trees with a two-way chaining treatment. The reduction of pinyon-juniper trees within this treatment will allow for improved understory of grasses forbs and shrubs that will be seeded during the treatment. Treatments like this have been proven to prevent wildfire from spreading during an event, this treatment will create several barriers or buffers between treated and non treated areas that is critical for controlling or containing wildfires. Several prior projects that reduced the likely hood of wildfire in the area and adjacent to this project, these projects consisted of clear cutting, burning and reseeding along with recent bullhog project that was implemented last fall by the Richfield BLM Fuels. This project will help protect valuable infrastructures, from Catastrophic Wildfires, such as homes, summer cabins, outbuildings, hay sheds, livestock corrals and mostly the community of Antimony, Utah. This area is currently a FRCC late stage II to early III, by reducing the heavy canopy of pinyon-juniper trees we can easily see this area be reduced to a stage class I. We are expecting to reseed this project which will allow for bunch grasses, forbs and shrubs to become established. In the past as with the recent fires in Sevier County (Willow Patch and Sandledges) when this type of work is done the reseed grasses and forbs help fire fighters regain control and suppress the spread of wildlife. Fuels are high in this treatment area, reduction of fuels and the need to reduce the height of the trees is a must to control this area in case of a catastrophic wildlife occurs.
This proposed project is a two-way chaining and reseeding project, pinyon-juniper stands are typical Phase III, no understory really dense stand, little to no grasses, forbs and shrubs. By implementing this project we will have the opportunity to increase overland water quantity by reducing the mature stand of pinyon-juniper trees. Removal of these trees will result in improved stream flow,more water discharge for soil availability for desired plant and shrub species. Information from a study provided by the NRCS Wedinar estimated that 1 acre of pinyon-juniper trees (33% Pinyon, 9% Juniper 58% Inter-space over a 12 month period will utilize 280,000 liters of water per ac/trees/yr or 23% of the water within a 1 acre foot).
Quality of water will not be overwhelming the first year but in and over time it will become improved. This type of treatment will benefit the soil over the long term, due to increasing plants that will utilize the excess water, overland flows of rills will be filled in, chance for overland flooding will be minimized allowing for springs and seep to start appearing and improved rangeland conditions will benefit overall.
Also this project will address the objective listed in the Otter Creek-East Fork TMDL Study for water body 16030002-005 helping with the amount of possible sediment and phosphorous entering the East Fork of the Sevier River with one of the strategies is to convert 70,000 acres into improved herbaceous cover through restoration efforts.
**I have also added the Water Resource Section of the Garfield County Plan into the Documents Tab. This document provides alot of information pertaining to treatments associated with water Quality and Quantity in Garfield County.
Culture Resources will need to be reviewed or a survey conducted within the undisturbed treatment area associated with the Center Creek Chaining Project as it pertains to the two-way chaining aspect of the project. This will be contracted out through our State Purchasing guidelines and the Project Manager will work with Monson Shaver (UDWR) to coordinate this action. Project Manager will work with Monson Shaver to make sure all Culture Resource surveys are complete and SHPO has been consulted after the survey of the treatment areas are inventoried. The BLM portion of this project has been completed and the NEPA is final and ready to move forward NEPA/EA # DOI-BLM-UT-C020-2012-0009-EA. In 2018 this project did received some funding but not enough to complete the project in it's entirety. Funding from FY 19' will be used to complete the Culture Resources aspect of the project. This should be done before June of 2019.
This project will consist of using two (2) D-8 cats to pull and "Ely" anchor chain on the first pass, with the second pass pulling a "Smooth" anchor chain. In between chaining the project will be aerial seeded with a mixture of grasses and forbs. We would also like to use a dribbler attached to each D-8 cat to allow the planting of browse species. Travel corridors will be kept intact allowing for thermal and escape cover for wildlife in the area. Culture Resource issues will need to be addressed on this project, this maybe worked as a joint effort through UDWR personnel.
Monitoring methods will be looking at the increase in forage production and growth on browse species as it pertains to the removal of encroaching pinyon-juniper trees in the treatment area by the use of the two-way chaining . This will be done with photo points and vegetation studies that will be taken over time. Possible monitoring site maybe established by GBRC Range Trend Crew within the chaining project location. Additional monitoring plans will consist of wildlife monitoring through UDWR bi-annual deer classification to monitor production and subsequent survival on the Plateau Boulder Unit deer and elk herds, along with implementing a rest rotational grazing system so the chaining treatment can be rested for two growing seasons after treatment then placed within a rotational grazing system.
Partners for this project consist of the Richfield BLM, UDWR, and SITLA. All partners are supportive of this project and are willing to commit a lot of time and effort towards making this project a success. Scott Chamberlain with SITLA has talked to and presented the project to the grazing permittee's and they are also in favor of work being done to reduce the pinyon-junipers in the treatment area. In addition the general public and sportsman that enjoy hunting and recreating in this area will also benefit from the Habitat Restoration Work that will be completed, the improvements made will last for many years to come. In addition the livestock permittee has been notified of this project and will be willing to deffer grazing for two growing season allowing the establishment of the seed species to mature and develop. SITLA will be helping out by completing the RIP or Range Improvement Project documentation for this project as we move forward.
Grazing will be suspended for two growing seasons to allow the grass and forb species to mature and develop to handle grazing. In the future the two-way chaining portion will be managed on a rotational grazing system to adhere or coincide with the Richfield BLM Management Plans and SITLA grazing dates. UDWR, SITLA and the BLM has committed to improve habitat through restoration efforts to improve overall regional goals and objectives for wildlife and livestock grazing. Success will be determined by the Management Plans of the BLM, SITLA and UDWR along with the grazing permittees through proper grazing systems that allow for healthy rangeland communities. This project will increase the overall forage value and have a direct benefit to wildlife and livestock. This project will also add value to the mule deer, turkeys, sage grouse and elk within the Plateau, Boulder WMU, addressing winter range issues and providing additional forage and eliminating possible depredation issues to cultivated crops.
Other future management of this project will be to address the need to remove small "pinyon or juniper whips" within the project site, this can be done with contracted hand crews, or even UDWR DH Program. We will be looking also at the need to address cheatgrass and noxious weed species if warranted, this will be done through spot spraying with ATV or scheduling the use and assistance of a CWMA spray day with local state, federal and cooperative groups to help out. SITLA Representative has been in discussion with the grazing permittee and they are in favor of the project being implemented. I believe that the grazing permittee has been in touch with Scott Chamberlain for SITLA about changing the time of use for the SITLA portion of this project. Other discussions have happened and a Cooperative Agreement or MOU will be in place as the project receives funding.
Domestic Livestock Benefit:
This project will increase the understory of the treatment area dramatically, allowing for increased feed for grazing livestock on the SITLA and BLM Properties. Pinyon Juniper trees are very dense and little to no understory is present. This project will increase grasses, forbs and shrubs species for livestock due to native and no-native seeded species included in the mix. The chaining aspect will open up areas to sunlight, reducing overall pinyon-juniper stands and allow of the establishment of seeded species to occur. Domestic livestock will be grazed on a rotation type system after two to three growing seasons, improved distribution can a will occur due to improved understory.
Other uses from this project would include additional wood harvesting opportunities from the public on SITLA and BLM properties before and after the treatment is completed. This could include the use of harvesting cedar posts along with commercial and private wood cutting. I would suspect that the use of harvesting Christmas trees within this area would occur as well. I would also suspect that mining and mineral exploration can and is occuring within the Boulder Unit 25 C.
** I have attached the Garfield County Livestock Grazing Resource Document in the document tab. this gives a good over view of additional information pertaining to grazing and other sustainable use.
I would also identify hunting opportunities for big game and upland game species in the area. This area is critical for mule deer and elk along with wild turkeys. Many people use this area to hunt during regular seasons for mule deer, limited entry elk and wild turkey. This place is also good access to the Forest Service, which you will find people camping and enjoying the outdoors during the summer months. ATV trails are present in the area and offer multiple points of access to the upper trail systems on the Boulder Mtn.