Ranchers and environmentalists team up to save aspens
Ranchers, environmentalists and state and federal officials band together to create new grazing and forest plan to help save the trees.
By Brandon Loomis | The Salt Lake Tribune
First Published Jul 30 2012 10:08 pm • Last Updated Jul 31 2012 04:40 pm
The 175,000-acre mountain southeast of Richfield is the summer home of 972 cows and 1,496 sheep, plus a swarming elk herd that was nowhere to be seen before the 1980s. All three of those species rely on airy aspen groves where grasses and leafy plants thrive, but all three also eat aspen twigs and keep them from growing into new tree stands.
Without a change, spruce, fir or sagebrush could take over, decreasing forage and forcing some livestock off the mountain — either by U.S. Forest Service rule or by simple lack of calories. A collaboration of environmentalists, ranchers and state and federal officials is working on a new grazing and forestry plan that, among other things, aims to give some places a respite from nibbling teeth so aspens get a head start toward the 7-foot height that generally means safety.
“We’re 100 percent for it,” said Greenwich-based rancher Rayne Bagley, who pays the Forest Service for the chance to run cattle on the mountain and meets monthly with the collaboration committee. “If we get the aspen back, it increases our feed.”
That’s the primary goal for ranchers, who want a system that gives them the same time or more to graze on the mountain.
Other partners, including the Grand Canyon Trust and the Utah Environmental Congress, want aspens to persist as wildlife harbors or even just forest cover instead of dry scrublands. Click here for the entire Brandon Loomis/Salt Lake Tribune story.