100,000 Acres of Sagebrush Habitat Lost Each Year in the Great Basin
Caliente Firewood, Utilizing Pinyon Juniper into wood pellets, to restore critical sagebrush habitat for 350+ species through t-shirt sales and Go Fund Me.
Caliente, Nevada July 12 2015. Caliente Firewood announced today that it is raising funds via T-shirt sales and Go Fund Me to purchase a small pellet mill to continue utilizing pinyon juniper to restore critical sagebrush habitat. The company set out to sell 4,000 T-shirts or raise $40,000 through Go Fund Me. This pellet mill is the last piece of their utilization strategy and will allow them to restore sagebrush habitat at a landscape level.
With the suppression of wildfires in the Great Basin and other factors, pinyon juniper has expanded 10 fold in the last 150 years. Tree coverage of the sagebrush steppe has gone from less than one third to over two thirds of the Great Basin now totaling 17.6 million acres of pinyon juniper woodlands. Pinyon Juniper woodlands are classified in three phases. Phase 1 some trees are present but sagebrush and other herbaceous plants dominate the landscape, this is the historical norm. Phase 2 Trees are covering more of the landscape but sagebrush and other shrubs are still present. Phase 3 Trees dominate the landscape with little to no underbrush present. Phase 3 results in an increase in soil erosion due to the lack of underbrush and a much greater risk of catastrophic fires. When phase 3 burns the chances of it returning to a sagebrush community are very small with most areas turning into invasive weeds such as cheat grass after the fire. With 100,000 acres per year turning into phase 3 in the Great Basin the loss of habitat for 350+ species of the sagebrush steppe is alarming.
Currently Pinyon Juniper is treated by mastication, chaining, lop and scatter and controlled burns. These treatments cost from$10 to $600 per acre to complete with the average being $80 to $100 per acre. The cost of these treatments limits the amount of acres that can be treated each year, and leave the trees on the ground to rot with very little utilization of the trees. Utilization of pinyon juniper can reduce the cost of these treatments and increase the amount of acres that can be treated and restored each year. Caliente Firewood currently produces firewood, fence posts and biochar. Adding pellets will allow more trees to be utilized and restore more acres of habitat each year. Very little utilization of these trees is currently being done as it is to labor intensive. By using the entire tree Caliente Firewood will prove that pinyon juniper can be harvested and utilized economically and made into many profitable products so utilization can be expanding to other areas of the Great Basin and the west. Gary Barnett owner of Caliente Firewood states “My goal is to restore 10,000 acres or more of habitat for each location and bring in 50 to 100 much needed jobs to each of these locations.” Caliente Firewood plans to donate a portion of all profits to a wildlife charity to reseed the areas cut to further enhance the habitat.
The loss of sagebrush habitat from pinyon juniper has adversely affected population size of the 350+ species that live on the sagebrush steppe. Pinyon juniper expansion is listed as a major factor resulting in the decline of Sage Grouse, which are currently under consideration for being listed as an endangered or threatened species. Studies have shown that sage grouse prefer habitat with less that 5% pinyon juniper coverage. Sage grouse avoid areas where pinyon juniper has grown to a width of more than 200 feet. Removal of pinyon juniper has shown great results for sage grouse, doubling the number of males on a lek in the second and third year of treatment. Sage grouse, mule deer, pygmy rabbits and other species are declining in numbers due to the loss of habitat, but all respond favorably to removal of pinyon juniper. With the loss of 100,000 acres a year of habitat, utilization of pinyon juniper is needed to restore this habitat before more damage is done. You can help today by buying a T-shirt today https://represent.com/restoring-critical-wildlife-habitat or donating here http://www.gofundme.com/restoringhabitat