Sagebrush Ecosystem EA Public Input by December, 5th 2016
Subject: DOI-BLM-NV-B000-2017-0001-EA, Sagebrush Ecosystem Environmental Assessment
Battle Mountain District Office
Re: Sagebrush Ecosystem EA public input
Dear Public Lands Officials:
I support the No Action alternative and am very upset with how the preparers of this document are filtering the evidence to steer BLM policy and programs toward the further monopolization of the public lands by livestock ranchers, both cattle and sheep. I very much oppose the targeting of the juniper trees and also the pinyon pine-juniper woodlands in general. Supposedly this is being done to benefit the Greater Sage Grouse and its Sagebrush-Grassland-Steppe ecosystem, but I sense that at the bottom of this is the desire to maintain the stranglehold of the public lands livestock ranchers upon our public domain lands and their vital resources. This is a “whitewash” or better stated a “greenwash” that I see through! The ancient pinyon-juniper woodland ecosystem as well as the pure juniper woodlands or the pure pinyon-pine woodlands date back millennia in Western North America and they have been greatly reduced by the overwhelming activities of modern-day civilization, including ranching, mining, logging, roads and vehicles including jeeps and quads, motorcycles, etc. These woodlands are home to many diverse species of plants and animals and act to protect and restore both soils and watersheds. This also includes areas where tall grasses come to thrive, and this is of benefit to the Greater Sage Grouse. I have observed this in areas where the woodlands shield the land from harsh winds and help with the buildup of moisture in the soils that thus favors higher grasses.
Of critical importance, in our present era of Global Climate Change, or Warming, the Pinyon-Juniper/Juniper/Pinyon woodlands are crucially important adapters to the major ecological changes that temperature increase is bringing upon all the living in our shared home world. The increase of these ancient woodland communities is a healthy response to Global Warming. This is particularly noted in the increase of Junipers, which are more heat tolerant, but also with Pinyon Pines. And remember that the Pinyon Pine as well as the Juniper provide an important food source that is both quantitatively and qualitatively superior and better adapted to the arid West than that blind tradition of cattle or sheep production that is being foisted upon the public lands and has been for centuries. These ancient tree species provide food and shelter to hundreds of animal species, e.g. the Pinyon Jay, the Clark’s Nutcracker, the Pinyon Mouse, the Black Bear, and many other birds, reptiles and mammals as well as important and ecologically vital integrated insects, including pollinators. The Pinyon Jays and Mouses also cache the seeds of the pinyons, and further their propagation over the centuries, and this mutualistic symbiosis dates back thousands of years.
Pinyon Pines, as well as Junipers, were also mainstays for Native American societies such as the Paiutes, Washoes, and Shoshones, and could again so become to ecologically enlightened people. They could provide a sound alternative to ecologically destructive cattle and sheep production, which has and continues to degrade and decimate the West! You should recognize how both Juniper and Pinyon Pine stabilize soils, especially on the many mountain slopes that occur in the Great Basin, as elsewhere, and how their litter builds healthy humus-containing soils that absorb water and prevent massive loss of soils, i.e. erosion. This acts to elevate local and regional aquifers, or water tables — and what could be more important in our increasingly arid West?! Furthermore, these forests shield the land surface from desiccating winds, thus providing safe and nourishing abode for myriad organisms — including us humans, if we would only realize it!
You probably remember how much I appreciate the wonderful returned-North-American-native wild horses and burros who are protected by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. Well, these too depend upon the Junipers and also the Pinyons to a large degree for critical shelter and they benefit these trees in turn, as I have observed in the field. This has to do with their fertilizing the soils and contributing greatly to the food chain, or web, existing about these shelter trees. These trees can be crucial to their survival during extremes of summer heat and winter cold, and not only to these equids but to many other species such as Mule Deer, Bighorn Sheep, and Elk, owls, raptors, packrats, songbirds, amphibians, and reptiles, as well as to important insects that have been here for thousands of years into the past.
To attack the Juniper/Pinyon/Pinyon-Juniper woodland ecosystem is to go against Nature’s ancient wisdom and to set us all up for dismal failure. For we all belong to the Great Family Tree of Life, and to act disrespectfully and hostilely toward any important component of this life community is ultimately to harm one’s very own self — perhaps more than anyone else.
Please think about what I have to say. I can provide you with many valid, scientific studies as proofs. I again take this cherished opportunity to urge your choosing of the NO ACTION Alternative and your reformulation of a much more respectful and nature-harmonious plan for these public lands, including their valuable and appropriate, positively contributing Junipers and Pinyon Pines as well as all the other creatures that belong together here in this important and unique part of the world, which also happens to be my cherished home, a home for which I give thanks and will defend.
Craig C. Downer, Wildlife Ecologist