Habitat project to increase feed for wildlife
A project was recently completed to rehabilitate an area in the Grimes Wash to clear the way for native species to the area. "I like to think of it as taking a bedroom and turning it into a kitchen," stated Nicole Nielson, habitat biologist with the Division of Wildlife Resources. "That is what I was told by the gentleman who owned the dozers that would pull a 23,000 lb. chain through pinyon and juniper trees in the Grimes Wash area."
Nielson designed and oversaw the chaining of Grimes Wash near the Wilberg mine to remove pinyon and juniper trees in order to establish grasses, forbs and shrubs. "Pinyon and juniper trees provide hiding/thermal cover for deer and elk, which is the bedroom. By removing islands of trees and aerial seeding the area with high quality plant species, we create a kitchen, and they still have a bedroom too," explained Nielson.
As plant communities age, different species become more dominant. Pinyon and juniper trees are the last species to establish and dominate lower elevation sites. Unless there is a disturbance of some sort, the site will remain as a pinyon-juniper woodland. If the tree canopy is thick enough, it prohibits other vegetation from growing. This is why the DWR removed approximately 200 acres of trees, re-seeding with a variety of forbs, grasses and shrubs, making more food for deer and elk.
"Chaining is a great way to turn a bedroom into a kitchen", says Nielson. "When I refer to chaining, I mean dragging a 240 ft. anchor chain between parallel dozers and pulling down trees. The anchor chain has cross bars welded to the chain links to disturb the soil. This disturbance allows the seed to better establish and grow, like tilling your garden."
This project was a collaborative effort between UDWR, XTO Energy, Mule Deer Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife, and Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative. "With many financial partners we can implement great projects to benefit deer and elk. Our financial partners are greatly appreciated," stated Nielson.