ELY – A local vendor is selectively removing pinyon pine and juniper trees from approximately 690 acres of the public lands in Smith Valley, about 25 miles northwest of Ely.
Rangelands Restoration, LLC is masticating, or mechanically grinding the trees as part of a Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) habitat improvement project conducted in collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management.
NDOW’s Eastern Region Habitat Biologist and Project Manager Moira Kolada said that removing pinyon-juniper from within sagebrush communities improves habitat, benefitting area wildlife. “This particular area serves as crucial mule deer habitat,” Kolada said.
Kolada said woody biomass remaining from the tree-thinning will serve as a mulch layer for seed applied by dribblers mounted on the equipment, as well as seed applied aerially prior to the treatment. She said mastication will continue through mid-March, weather permitting. Any remaining work will resume in mid-July due to timing restrictions for sensitive resources.
BLM Ely District Natural Resource Specialist Kellie Dobrescu said the mastication and seeding are part of the landscape-scale Smith Valley Mastication and Hand Thinning Project that will ultimately treat up to 10,000 acres of the public lands in Smith Valley.
“Landscape-level projects like this one come with immeasurable benefits, not the least of which are improving rangeland health and wildlife habitat and reducing our communities and natural resources’ exposure to catastrophic wildfire risk,” said Dobrescu.