More than 60 Arizona Elk Society volunteers recently turned out to keep pines from overshadowing a patch of grasslands near Flagstaff for the benefit of local elk herds.
The group removed small conifers that invaded many meadows. Armed with handsaws and tree loppers, the group also deployed a dozen volunteer sawyers who had taken a five-day Forest Service course on using chainsaws to remove larger trees.
Steve Clark, AES Executive Director said, “It was really exciting to see the aftermath of the work that the saw crew completed. Literally thousands of trees blocked movements between two important wintering areas for elk, pronghorn and mule deer. When the crew was done, the area had once again become wildlife-friendly.”
The 60-plus volunteers and agency personnel on May 18 and 19 helped reverse decades of tree invasion. Steve Clark said, “It’s difficult to guess how many trees were removed but they were able to clear a 100-acre meadow near Slate Lake, about 150 acres near Prong Lake, both on the Coconino National Forest.”
The saw crew opened a heavily wooded travel lane that comprised about 50 acres and the hand crew took care of a couple hundred acres on the Kaibab National Forest. The dollar value in federal match to the State of Arizona of the hours the volunteers worked and the miles they drove to this project is $17,182, but the value to the wildlife was “priceless.”
AES Conservation Director Jim deVos said, “The grasslands are an imperiled habitat in most of the American Southwest. Prior to settlement of these areas, naturally-occurring fires kept the woody plants out of the meadows, but changes in how habitats have been used since settlement has changed the fire regime and it is not a viable tool for habitat management.”
For more information, visit www.arizonaelk society.org