LOGAN – Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative (WRI) will begin the final phases of their Three Canyons Deer Winter Range Habitat Treatment project that will restore Mule Deer crucial winter habitat by burning removed Juniper trees and planting shrubs and seeding in a total of 381 acres that covers Green Canyon, Providence Canyon, and Logan Dry Canyon.
Project manager and wildlife biologist, Masako Wright, said Mule Deer are continuing to lose ground for a variety of reasons, including the development of the East bench. Their winter habitat is depleting due to the Juniper Trees in those canyons.
Project details note, “this habitat component would render this area ineffective as winter habitat for deer and elk and summer and transitional habitat for deer. Action taken now would help to maintain these habitats against this threat.”
“The Juniper trees in those canyons are big, and the important food for Mule Deer aren’t able to grow,” Wright explained.
As Juniper tree density goes up, the other brush can’t grow because the trees take up all the nutrients, water, and light. When the tree’s needles fall, they create an acidic ground and plants have a hard time growing underneath.
According to WRI project details, between 50-100 percent of the Juniper in targeted areas have been removed to “create a mosaic of areas with Junipers and open areas.”
Earlier phases of this project removed the Juniper trees. The next phase of burning and removing the trees, and the planting or seeding of Mountain Big Sage, Antelope Bitterbrush, and snowberries will complete the project.
Wright explained another benefit of removing the Juniper trees was fire prevention.
“Those canyons are close to town. Junipers burn fast and hot. By removing them, we reduced the fuel load and either prevent fires, or those fires won’t be as bad,” Wright added.
The burns will begin this fall and continue through winter and spring. Wright said there is enough pile for the project to take a few years to complete. The team must follow Cache Valley’s air restrictions, so when the air quality is poor, they won’t burn.
The planting of shrubs and seeding will happen parallel to the burns. Volunteers will be asked to help plant the brush. The Logan Ranger Office will be selling firewood permits so people will be able to collect the Junipers for firewood.