“The dawn breaks each morning on a hundred different mountain ranges in the Great Basin, with few human eyes to see it. Many of these mountain chains will be unfamiliar to most – the Toquimas, the Wah Wahs, the Goshutes, the Sheeprocks, the Fox Range – but the one thing they all have in common is their juniper woodlands that have been here for thousands of years. On the mesas and tablelands of the Colorado Plateau, guarding the slickrock canyons and mazes of badlands that are American icons, are the fragile woodlands (don’t bust the crust!) of pinyon and juniper that perfume the air with that ineffable scent of wild country. Today, just as the world awakens to the reality that we need as much carbon sequestration as possible, these arid woodlands are under assault from a coordinated campaign to deforest the West, orchestrated by the livestock industry.
The real reason that pinyon-juniper woodlands are so aggressively targeted for “control” and “treatment,” even though they are an ecologically important and natural component of western ecosystems, comes down to the almighty dollar. A recent survey of Bureau of Land Management employees by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility contains this clue: “with ranchers, one employee noted that the current excuse to cut pinyon juniper and sagebrush to prevent wildfire, which have been the native species for thousands of years, has no scientific reasoning. Instead, it’s to benefit cattle.””