Managing the three national forests in Southern Utah to protect their heritage
The Dixie, Fishlake, and Manti-La Sal National Forests occupy almost 4 million acres above southern Utah’s famed red rock canyons. These forests consist of craggy cliffs, high plateau and alpine meadows, lifeblood creeks and streams, aspen stands, grasslands, sagebrush communities, ponderosa pine, and conifer forests.
Their management has historically focused almost exclusively on facilitating livestock grazing, off-road vehicles, logging, coal mining, oil and gas extraction, and poorly regulated recreational use. The Utah Forests Program was established to encourage these national forests to shift their management focus toward the protection of natural ecosystem values. Climate change (to higher temperatures and deeper droughts) only heightens the need for improving and rearranging priorities for forest management on the Colorado Plateau. For instance,
- Soil needs to be stabilized with native plants.
- Cottonwood, aspen, and willow youngsters must be able to grow into the overstory instead of being repeatedly browsed back.
- Killing sagebrush for cattle forage (often under the guise of “wildlife habitat” or “restoration”) needs to cease.
- Beaver must be able to return home so they can work their engineering magic restoring creeks and wetlands.
- Sage grouse need tall grass for cover, flowers for insects (for chicks), and wet meadows for late summer brooding.