On Juniper

Endangered species do not need juniper.

Juniper is native but has served as a component species rather than a dominant species.  Species at risk in our natural landscape are at risk from loss of habitat.  Sage grouse do not live in juniper.  The juniper offers predatory hawks a convenient perch to use as they watch for grouse to eat.  The pygmy cottontail rabbit lives in and depends on sagebrush.  Juniper degrades the sagebrush.  Studies show an increased number of animals, birds and butterflies in areas where the juniper was cut compared to juniper woodland.  A closed juniper woodland is a biological desert when compared to a verdant shrub steppe landscape.

As the area and density of juniper is expanding, juniper is actually a problem for endangered species and wildlife in general.  When a spring dries up or a creek flows less, all the wildlife in the area is affected.  Water is a limiting factor in this arid region.  Juniper further limits the water available.  Our efforts to protect salmon trout and steelhead are costing our society billions of dollars.  Still, we ignore the fact that the water lost to interception and transpiration due to juniper encroachment is water lost to the watershed and all its inhabitants.  Juniper invasion has been shown to increase soil erosion eight fold.  If we consider cost to benefit, the juniper invasion is costing us soil, water and wildlife.  Where is the benefit?

Environmental / preservation groups are not fighting tooth and nail to save the juniper.  There is uneasiness about juniper becoming another big industry like logging (Weyerhaeuser) and farming (Cenex).  There is also wariness about the disturbance of old growth stands and fragile locations.  Those concerns are generally addressed during the planning stage of projects.  It is easy to recognize and train workers to recognize the attributes of the old growth trees. The old trees lack commercial value.  The old trees do have a value for the wildlife and scenic values of the site.  Not much abuse of these recognized values has occurred.  There is also a recognition of the impact juniper is having on the watersheds and wildlife.  Thus “Environmentalists” have been guarded but generally quiet about juniper “management.”