For one of Utah’s largest aspen communities to rebound and thrive, the U.S. Forest Service says, parts of Monroe Mountain must burn.
Forest Service officials hope to restore aspen in this 175,000-acre patch of Fishlake National Forest through prescribed burning, logging conifers and improved management of the livestock and big game that eat aspen shoots before they can become trees. Flames could be the cheapest and most effective means for clearing out fir-choked stands and triggering the rebirth of aspen, according to Richfield District Ranger Jason Kling.
His plan was finalized Monday after years of analysis and collaborative planning. But it’s not sitting well with ranchers who fear it could lead to grazing restrictions, and some environmentalists, who say it promotes logging on thousands of roadless acres, including areas proposed for protection as wilderness.
Photo by Brian Maffly
Still, the Monroe Mountain Aspen Ecosystems Restoration Project has broad support from state and federal agencies, surrounding municipalities and some conservation groups. Officials hope the 10-year program will reverse aspen forests’ decline without displacing livestock or the elk and mule deer herds that are prized by sportsmen.
Aspen forests are among the West’s signature ecosystems, yet they have been in steep decline thanks to decades of fire suppression and browsing by hungry hooved munchers, both wild and domestic, and more recently from drought and climate change. –Brian Maffly, Salt Lake Tribune