Forests on Utah’s public lands may soon be torn out. Here’s why.
The U.S. is moving forward with a plan to create new cattle pasture and prevent fires despite what scientists say is meager environmental review.
In among the quietest places in the continental United States, where the discordant whine of newly hatched cicadas is usually the loudest sound, the metallic growl of a 28-ton masticator overpowers all as it shreds towering pinyon pine and gnarled juniper into fragrant bark piles. It spares a twisted gambel oak, the cicadas’ honey-colored exoskeletons hanging from the tree’s branches.
Machine tracks in the sand frame the site near Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a harbinger of its vanishing solitude. The federal government plans to remove an unprecedented number of trees here, it says to reduce fire risk, improve habitat for greater sage grouse, and increase forage for cattle and a world-renowned trophy-hunting deer herd.
And it plans to do it fast.