Kaibab National Forest seeks comments on grassland restoration project

An agra-axe after removal of a conifer tree as part of grassland restoration, Kaibab National Forest, date not given | Photo courtesy of Kaibab National Forest, St. George News

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Managers are seeking public comment on a proposed project to use mechanical treatments and prescribed fire to restore grasslands across a 550,000-acre project area on the Williams and Tusayan districts of the Kaibab National Forest.

Known as the South Zone Grassland Restoration Project, the effort would implement thinning, prescribed burning and other activities to restore the structure and function of grassland and pinyon-juniper grassland — also referred to as savanna — ecosystems in an effort to improve their resilience to disturbance and changing climate regimes.

The environmental assessment analyzing the potential effects to forest resources of implementing the proposed project and all other associated documentation are available on the Kaibab National Forest website. In addition to potential environmental effects, the environmental assessment describes the project’s background, outlines the purpose of and need for the project, describes the components of the alternatives under analysis, and summarizes consultation and coordination that has been completed throughout the life of the project.

The South Zone Grassland Restoration Project area encompasses about 269,000 acres of the Williams Ranger District and 281,000 acres of the Tusayan Ranger District. The project area consists of the portions of the south zone located outside the Four Forest Restoration Initiative Project boundary.

The southwestern landscape, including the south zone of the Kaibab National Forest, has been greatly altered over the past century by the encroachment of woody plants, particularly juniper, pinyon, and ponderosa pine into areas that were formerly grasslands and open pinyon-juniper grasslands. These factors have eliminated the vegetation necessary to carry low intensity surface fires across the landscape, thereby altering the natural fire regimes and allowing uncharacteristic forest succession to take place. Encroachment can alter water and nutrient cycling, impact soil integrity, and negatively impact wildlife habitat.

Comments concerning this project must be in writing and may be delivered electronically or by mail, facsimile, or hand. Comments will be accepted for 30 calendar days following the publication of a legal notice in the Arizona Daily Sun. For additional information on the project or to provide comments, visit the Kaibab National Forest website.

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3 Comments

  • .... August 20, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    Yes this is a great article about a very important project that concerns the public. I would like to thank all those involved in this project and seeing it through. job well done.

  • debbie August 21, 2016 at 12:59 am

    ok, so please help me understand what i just wrote (anyone) but please be nice.. b/c this is how i just interpreted this. A. this used to all be grasslands.. B. we’ve been told for half a century now without the grasses, the soil erodes into the air and we get big dust storms which is why so many farms and cattle ranches failed the last 80 years. and that also causes, flooding and moodslides. C. now somehow mysteriously, pines have showed up.. (they take 40 years to get 15 ft. tall).. and there is still grasses and we need to burn it and its not cost effective to do so.. so now however, with the new landscaping, they arent quite sure which way to go? so. lemme get this straight.. we ran off the farmers, ran off the cattle ranchers, planted (and they did) all these pins and now.. they dunno what to do?) .. so then why do we have thousands of wild horses corralled and sterilized and or killed each year? we wouldn’t need to burn these lands if they were eating them? why are cattle ranchers being shoved off these lands proven to keep all OUR BEEF prices down if they can use it and the horses and the cattle aereate the land (walking on it puts air into the ground and thus oxygen to the roots to all the species of plants..) that is a bigger plus than the vegetation they kill when they eat. i think blm is chasing its tail.. now i know the blm workers are hard workers.. i’ve met some. i dont think they are evil or stupid.. i like they are asking people for answers.. this is actually the biggest topic in our news today.. even bigger than trump. if people like their steaks.. and don’t want to be telling their grandchildren one day ” yeah we used to eat beef “… then we all need to look at what blm is doing. would love to hear someone help me understand the article better.. what i wrote could vvery well be all wrong.. but, i’m not thinking its all too wrong.. i think it has some merit. thanks.

    • Chris August 21, 2016 at 11:13 am

      Wow, where to start? I am afraid that you are wrong on virtually point you raise. You need to start by understanding that cattle production in the desert southwest is minuscule compared to other parts of the country, and as such, has no effect whatsoever on the price of beef in the grocery store. You also need to understand that cattle ranching here is only possible because of overly generous subsidies from the federal government–hence the pejorative term “welfare rancher.” “the biggest topic in our news today..”–Maybe it is to you, but no one outside outside this area cares about it all.

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