The goal of this project was to remove young juniper trees from aspen stands in order to regenerate the aspens that were being taken over by junipers. This habitat restoration effort was meant to help animals such as the Bull Trout, an endangered species, as well as other plants and animals in the area to regenerate their populations. This project was categorized as “fuels reduction” by the BLM, meaning that it would reduce the available fuel in these areas in order to minimize fire danger. By cutting the young juniper, the aspens will have room to grow; in the last ten years alone since this project began, many young aspen stands have sprung up. Aspens provide better shade than juniper for many species of plants and animals, especially in this desert-like environment in southern Idaho. In the Dave Creek area that we first worked in, the aspen provide essential organic matter when the leaves fall into the stream every fall and decompose, which helps the Bull Trout to thrive. In the spring and summer, the aspen provide shade so that the water the Bull Trout inhabit is cool enough.
This hitch taught us many skills such as tool maintenance, how to dig a latrine, how to properly lop juniper so it doesn’t grow back, and how to properly saw larger junipers at the base. Additionally, we were able to practice gridding an area with equal space between us, communicating with each other and giving feedback, and identifying and searching for juniper among sagebrush and heavily forested land. We navigated around a handful of rattlesnakes, hot temperatures, high elevations, and rocky landscapes while bushwhacking through thick brush. Overall, it was a very successful hitch that helped everyone on the crew to develop their skills in the field and at camp.