You’re looking at an invasion in southwest Idaho.
Many decades of fire suppression opened the door for the massive spread of juniper trees that continue to force their way into grasslands and sagebrush, sucking up water, nutrients, soil, space and sunlight along the way.
That’s bad news for a landscape that supports 350 species of plants and animals including sage grouse, mule deer, antelope, golden eagles and –yes– even elk.
So the Bureau of Land Management developed the Bruneau Owhyee Sage-Grouse Habitat or BOSH project in collaboration with the Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Lands, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Over 10 to 15 years, crews aim to remove encroaching junipers across 617,000 acres of public land managed by the BLM south of Boise and west of Twin Falls. They already treated 64,000 acres, or more than 10 percent of that total, in 2019 and 2020 alone.
Treatment methods include hand-cutting and mastication.
Downed junipers are scattered to decompose, burn in small piles or are also available as firewood.
In addition to improving the quality of native grasses and sagebrush, removing the trees also greatly benefits nesting areas for sage grouse since raptors lose their convenient perches to prey on the precarious population.
The project takes place in the same county where RMEF funds research to help wildlife managers better understand seasonal ranges, habitat use, movement patterns, migration corridors and survival.
Restoring elk country is core to RMEF’s Managed Lands Initiative.
Since 1984, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners completed more than 12,600 conservation and hunting heritage projects that protected or enhanced more than 8 million acres of wildlife habitat.