The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will hold an open workshop Thursday night to get the public’s input on a proposed plan to rehabilitate 26,252 acres over the next 10 years.
“The plant composition in the Pine Nut Range is no longer natural and needs some kind of management intervention to try to restore it to a healthier state,” BLM Fuels Specialist Tim Roide said. “Really, a lot of what we’re trying to do is to get it to be more resilient (after a fire. Fire) is its natural process out there in the landscape.” If acreages are managed, the land has a better chance of recovering after a fire, denying invasive species such as Cheat grass a foothold.
The workshop will be from 6-8 p.m. at the BLM’s Carson City office at 5665 Morgan Mill Road, off Deer Run Road. Comments will be accepted on the plan until May 2 and, depending on the first workshop’s turnout, a second workshop might be held. The Pine Nut Range is in Carson City and Douglas and Lyon counties. Staff, maps and pictures of proposed treatment areas will be available. Many of the materials are at the BLM’s website, http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/carson_city_field.html.
The BLM is seeking specific input, especially from those who know the land, and had already included some rehabilitation in the urban interface to reduce the risk of fire to some homeowners. Many agencies, including the Nevada Department of Wildlife, have already been working with the BLM on the plan.
“We haven’t been developing this in a vacuum,” Roide said.
A portion of the plan is to cull pinyon and juniper trees where they have been encroaching on historically grassy areas, to thin pinyon and juniper stands where there are too many trees competing for too few resources, and to restore riparian areas that have been crowded out by the flammable trees, Roide said. It’s not all about the trees. Reseeding also is an option.
Aspen, which often grow in riparian or water-heavy areas, recover easily from fires; their sprigs jump up like weeds in the wake of a normal fire. Pinyon and juniper trees, on the other hand, take 40-60 years to come back after a fire and are particularly flammable, unlike other species of trees. Some of the current plan involves restoring riparian areas through thinning or removing the heavy water-using pinyon and juniper. When they are taken out of the wetlands and springs, water flow increases, benefiting everything from mule deer to bugs, which are eaten by sage grouse, according to a BLM report.
Part of the management plan involves culling stands of pinyon and juniper, which are encroaching on historic grasslands. That would both further protect sage grouse, a threatened species, and their habitat, according to BLM.
The primary goal of the plan is to allow the natural plant species, in their historic areas, to be able to regrow after a fire. If the underbrush and grasses can regrow after a fire, they can ward of cheat grass. If they are too stressed or the fire burns too hot and the plants are damaged or killed, cheat grass can colonize, Roide said.
“Everything is just stressed” partially because of the continuing drought. “The plants and the animals,” he said.
Once cheat grass implants itself in an area, everything takes a downward-spiraling turn. More cheat grass means more fire means more stress on the native species.
“It’s a tough cycle,” Roide said.
“The current plant composition you see in the Pine Nuts is no longer natural, so it does need some kind of management” to get it to a healthier condition, he said. “What we’re trying to do is get it (native species) to be more resilient. ... We would like to get the plant communities into a healthier state so when a disturbance does hit them, it has a better chance of recovering to a more natural state on its own.”
Some of the treatments might allow public culling of trees for firewood, while others would allow the trees to become mulch and others would allow them to decompose naturally.
Studies show that in dense pinyon-juniper stands, the plants underneath them, the understory, are often destroyed by the intensity of the fire, which allows invasive species such as cheat grass to colonize, according to a BLM report.