Showing no signs of slowing its pursuit of widespread landscape manipulation, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Monticello field office recently proposed to “restore” the sagebrush ecosystem in part of Greater Canyonlands over the next 5 years. They plan to do this through a mix of prescribed fire, cutting and removing pinyon pine and juniper, mechanically ripping up sagebrush on 9,200 acres and following it all with a long-term “maintenance” plan that includes the use of herbicides in conjunction with all of the above.
Site of the BLM’s proposed “landscape gardening”
project in Beef Basin. Copyright Neal Clark/SUWA.
The areas affected by this proposed project contain some of the most remote and stunning landscapes in Greater Canyonlands. Sagebrush and pinyon-juniper dominate the vast views along these magnificent plateaus, which drop off into some of the wildest canyon country around. The area is known for its abundance of prehistoric artifacts, including free-standing stone fortresses, structures tucked discreetly into sandstone alcoves, and smaller artifacts scattered throughout the area. It also provides habitat for big game such as mule deer and elk, as well as several species considered “sensitive” by the BLM, including a variety of raptor species – eagles, falcons, hawks and owls.
The BLM continues to promote this “landscape gardening” project based on the assertion that it will have a long-term positive impact on Beef Basin and the Dark Canyon Plateau. Unfortunately, many of the scientific studies relied upon by the BLM did not occur within the unique ecosystem of the Colorado Plateau and therefore do not support the scientific claims made by the BLM regarding the long and short-term impacts of these projects. What numerous studies do show is that removing pinyon pine and juniper, tearing up sagebrush and disturbing biological soil crusts actually results in increased erosion, increased spread of invasive species and an increase in carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.