BLM thins pinyon-juniper to restore eastern Nevada sagebrush communities

Story by Chris Hanefeld, BLM Ely District public affairs specialist. Photos by Kellie Dobrescu, BLM Ely District range and wildlife conservationist

The BLM Ely District’s fuels management team recently completed two sagebrush-steppe habitat restoration treatments, masticating established pinyon-pine and juniper on nearly 1,000 acres of the public lands in White Pine County’s Cherry Creek and Kern mountain ranges.

A helicopter dropping seed with two men on the ground.
The masticated acreage was aerially seeded in January 2022.

“The objective is to improve the health, vigor and production of perennial grasses, forbs, and shrubs by selectively removing pinyon-juniper,” said Kellie Dobrescu, BLM Ely District range and wildlife conservationist. Dobrescu said the masticated acreage was aerially seeded in January 2022. She said seed mixes differed for each location, depending on site specific characteristics and seed availability. 

seed on the snow
The seed in this photo, taken immediately following the January aerial seeding, is now in or on the ground and safely covered by woody mulch and debris.

The 550-acre treatment in Johnson Spring Basin on the west slope of the Cherry Creek Range, about 65 miles northwest of Ely, is part of the landscape-scale Egan and Johnson Basins Restoration Project. The multi-year project will ultimately treat up to 24,346 acres of an 84,675-project area.

Treating the ground with mountains in the background.
The 550-acre treatment on the west slope of the Cherry Creek Range.

The 433-acre treatment in the Kern Mountains, approximately 50 miles northeast of Ely near the Utah state line, is a component of the Kern Mountains Landscape Restoration Project that over a several year period will treat up to 12,580 acres of a 15,725-acre project area. 

Treating the ground with mountains in the background.
The 433-acre treatment in the Kern Mountains.

Both large-scale projects utilize a variety of treatment methods, including hand-thinning, chaining, mastication, and prescribed fire-use combined with aerial and/or ground seeding, to restore watershed health and improve wildlife habitat, as well as reduce risk of a catastrophic wildfire.