Volunteers Helping Revitalize 60,000 Acres of Antelope Habitat

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Volunteers working hand-in-hand with wildlife professionals and land management officials have a lofty goal: restoring 60,000 acres of high grassland habitat for pronghorn on Anderson Mesa east of Flagstaff. But that will take time.

During the past 12 months, volunteers have been working with the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Coconino National Forest on grassland restoration. The short-term goal is to cut down small, young pinyon and juniper trees on 1,982 acres of the national forest. The grand plan is to eventually cut down trees on 60,000 acres to revitalize this important grassland ecosystem.

Volunteers from the Diablo Trust, Coconino County Juvenile Corrections, Adventure Discovery, Arizona Antelope Foundation, Grand Canyon Trust, Basha’s employees, Blue Cross Blue Shield employees, Federated Community Church and the Boy Scouts have cut down trees on 1,300 acres so far.

The last tree-cutting project for this year was Oct. 18-19 with volunteers from the Boy Scouts, Arizona ATV Riders, the Northern Arizona University Chapter of the Wildlife Society and Diablo Trust. More projects will commence in the spring. The Game and Fish Department is looking for additional volunteer groups to assist: call (928) 774-5045.

“The number of volunteers and the amount of work they have accomplished have been impressive,” says Rick Miller, a biologist in the department’s Flagstaff region. “The volunteers have really helped move this project along, and the department appreciates their efforts.”

Cutting the trees will help wildlife, especially antelope, in several ways, including:

· Keeping the grassland from becoming a woodland;

· Creating shelter and protection for young plants so they can mature;

· Providing cover to help antelope fawns hide from predators such as coyotes.

“Removing pinyon and juniper trees will be a great benefit for antelope,” says Miller. “This will also help with the overall plan to return Anderson Mesa to a true grassland.”