November 9, 2017 - 3:42 pm
The Kaibab National Forest will soon be able to begin implementation of a large-scale grassland restoration project across the Williams and Tusayan
Ranger Districts thanks to a decision signed today by District Ranger Danelle D. Harrison.
The South Zone Grassland Restoration Project will implement thinning, prescribed fire and other
activities to restore the structure and function of grassland and pinyon-juniper grassland, also referred to
as savanna, ecosystems in an effort to improve their resilience to disturbance and changing climate
Specifically, Harrison’s decision allows for a combination of commercial and non-commercial
mechanical treatments as well as prescribed fire on approximately 80,000 acres of grasslands and 63,000
acres of pinyon-juniper grasslands within the 550,000-acre project area, which covers large portions of
both the Williams and Tusayan Ranger Districts of the Kaibab National Forest. These areas represent
historical occurrences of grasslands and pinyon-juniper grasslands on the South Zone.
As part of these treatments, conifers – primarily juniper – will be selectively removed using mechanical
means or hand thinning. Additionally, thinning will be used to restore connectivity between grassland
habitats for wildlife species such as pronghorn antelope. Broadcast and pile burning will be used where
necessary to reduce fuel loading, control regeneration of conifers, and promote understory plant vigor.
The decision includes a number of other provisions including collaborating with the Arizona Game and
Fish Department to both install wildlife waters in strategic locations to encourage the movement of
ungulates and other wildlife species and to translocate populations of Gunnison prairie dogs to serve their
role as a keystone species in grassland ecosystems and assist with the mixing of soil contents.
The purpose of this project is to restore the structure and function of the South Zone’s grasslands and
pinyon-juniper grasslands by reducing tree densities, reestablishing natural fire regimes, and promoting
grassland-associated wildlife species. As a result of historical livestock grazing, fire suppression, changes
in wildlife populations, and climate change, these areas have experienced substantial encroachment and
infilling by woody species over the last century. This has reduced habitat quality and connectivity, and
impacted nutrient cycling and water availability.
“This decision is significant due to the important ecological role that grasslands play,” Harrison said. “We
recognize the value of these ecosystems, and we also recognize that they have been greatly altered over
the past century. The South Zone Grassland Restoration Project will help set us on a course to
functioning, healthy grasslands that can support a variety of species.”
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.
To review all analysis and documentation associated with the South Zone Grassland Restoration Project
including the Final Environmental Assessment, a Final Finding of No Significant Impact, and a Final
Decision Notice, please visit the Kaibab National Forest website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=44132.
Members of the public can find additional information on the Kaibab National Forest through the
Twitter: www.twitter.com/KaibabNF (Text ‘follow kaibabnf’ to 40404 to receive text messages.)
Kaibab website: www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab
Kaibab Facebook: www.facebook.com/KaibabNF