Government seeks to slow juniper encroachment
To the Bureau of Land Management, the juniper trees have encroached on the sagebrush steepe over the past 100 years or so and need to be removed.
The rift between the two sides couldn’t be wider and Cramer’s criticism of the federal agency couldn’t be stronger.
“Everything they say is based on lies and stupidity,” Cramer said. “This is the very worst travesty of all time. They’re destroying the very thing that could save us.”
But Peter Hall, a BLM forester who worked on a 180- to 200-acre restoration project near Madeline on Clarks Valley Road, said the agency didn’t just “make this stuff up” and has lots of strong scientific research on its side.
During a visit to the Clarks Valley Road site, Cramer lamented the “massacre” of the junipers, nearly clear-cut over a wide area. He said he couldn’t understand why anyone in their right mind would want to cut down a forest to create a desert.
But Hall said 100 years ago there were no junipers growing in this area. He said since the arrival of the white man’s in Lassen County fire suppression practices have created an environment in which the juniper tree can expand its territory and crowd out the sagebrush and grasses that would be growing there without man’s intervention.
“Because of our fire suppression, the junipers basically have taken over,” Hall said. “This area used to be a sagebrush flat.”
He noted this north-facing slope has a deeper, more loamy soil that the rocky south-facing slope. Because of the nature of the soil, Hall said the junipers on the south-facing slope did not create a “canopy” as they did on the north-facing slope.
“We set this aside for free use firewood cutting,” Hall said. “People flock to that area. Most of the slash is just limps, and that keeps the cows from grazing that micro-site, and that will help the grass come back.”
Hall acknowledged the dead limbs and branches on the ground increase the fuel load in the event of a fire, but that is “a short-term negative for a long-term positive. The wood has nutrients that will eventually cycle back into the soil.”
Hall said the project was basically chainsaw work completed by a conservation crew made up mostly of inmates.
As Cramer looked out at the fallen trees he said the sight turned his stomach and brought tears to his eyes.
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