Mud Springs Wildlife Habitat Improvement work continues
Story and Photos by Kevin S Abel
Dixie National Forest Public Affairs Officer
In October 2017 the Powell Ranger District of the Dixie National Forest released a scoping letter for the Mud Springs project located east of Red Canyon, north of Highway 12, the Decision Memo was signed in May 2018.
The purpose of this project is to improve wildlife habitat for a variety of species. To achieve their goal, Dixie National Forest biologists plan to modify the vegetation on approximately 29,921 acres in the Mud Springs Wildlife Habitat Improvement Project area, from a pinyon-juniper (PJ) dominated landscape to a seral state comprised of sagebrush, grasses, and forbs.
Project work includes using tools such as prescribed fire, hand felling, and mechanical removal of PJ and other conifers as needed from ponderosa pine stands and sage steppe areas where undesirable habitat conditions exist.
“The reduction of encroached conifers, primarily Pinyon and Juniper, in the sagebrush-steppe will have a very positive impact on the sagebrush obligates such as greater sage-grouse and Utah prairie dog,” said Jake Schoppe, Powell Ranger District Wildlife Biologist.
Part of the treatment plan includes reseeding the area after the disturbance with a diverse array of vegetative species
The greater sage-grouse (GRSG) is a Forest Service sensitive species managed under the new Greater Sage Grouse Record of Decision for the Forest Service (2015). Utah prairie dogs (UPD) are a federally listed threatened species managed under the Endangered Species Act. “The proposed project area provides habitat for both of these species and in many cases, they overlap on the landscape,” Schoppe said. Adding, “In addition, the proposed project area provides habitat for many other species including mule deer, elk, pronghorn and a wide variety of other mammal and bird species.”
Management emphasis is on the habitat needs of one or more management indicator or other emphasized species. The project area offers a wide variety of habitat for both big-game species such as mule deer, elk, and pronghorn as well as a huge amount of diverse habitat for threatened Utah prairie dog, Greater sage grouse, as well as other species such as burrowing owls, black bear.
Jake Schoppe, Powell Ranger District Wildlife Biologist discusses the progress of the mastication work with the contractor on the Mud Springs Wildlife Habitat Improvement project in the Dixie National Forest’s Powell Ranger district.
The Powell district has already witnessed the benefits as we have watched GRSG begin to explore newly treated habitat areas as the project has treated approximately 10,000 acres so far. According to Schoppe, by using GPS radio collars they have tracked GRSG using the treated areas. “We are witnessing a drastic reduction in PJ that has encroached on the sage-steppe and the watershed benefits are real,” said Schoppe. “Springs are sustained longer throughout the year and seem to be flowing at better rates.”
Project managers and biologists are hopeful to obtain enough funding to treat the rest of the acres within the next few years.
Check out the StoryMap for this Project