The Ely Times

Courtesy photo
A mastication machine is pictured mechanically thinning pinyon pine and juniper trees in south Steptoe Valley.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife and Bureau of Land Management have teamed up to restore thousands of acres of public lands. They are working hard to reduce catastrophic wildfire risk and improving wildlife habitat on thousands of acres of public lands directly south of Ely by removing trees.

The agencies are nearly three years into the South Steptoe Valley Watershed Restoration Project that restores sagebrush and other communities, mostly by selectively thinning encroaching pinyon pine and juniper.

Methods consist largely of hand or mechanical thinning, and chaining. Seeding and monitoring follow. The result is a natural appearing mosaic of grasses, brush and woodlands.

The project goal is to treat up to 54,000 – or a little more than a quarter – of the 200,000 acres within the watershed.

The agencies have already treated 12,300 acres and plan this year to treat 11,000 acres. The treatments compliment similar actions underway by the Forest Service on neighboring Ward Mountain.

Agency staff and contractors perform the work. To date, the project has provided 110 people with seasonal employment, all of whom used local services. More than a third stayed in local motels. The project this year will employ 60 people.