It is an ongoing battle across many landscapes in the West. Due to years of fire suppression, conifers are invading and spreading across historic grasslands and sagebrush-steppe habitats. The larger trees suck up water thus reducing the quality of grasses and forbs that are so vital for elk and a wide variety of other species.
Partners in the Sage highlighted one Montana project aimed to confront conifers. Landowners collaborated with a handful of partners including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others to stop encroaching conifers. The goal is to not only remove the trees, but also restore water for their livestock and wildlife while enhancing forage.
Additionally, removing conifers in the Blackfoot Valley assists with water flows into the nearby Blackfoot River, an important fishery and driver of the outdoor economy.
(Graphic source: USDA/NRCS)