Firewood company wants to build mills, restore sagebrush habitat; Nevada, Utah

Rotting pinyon and juniper trees near Caliente, Nevada, undated | Photo courtesy of Gary Barnett, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A Nevada company is raising funds for a pellet mill to process pinyon and juniper trees cleared by the Bureau of Land Management to help restore wildlife habitat in both Nevada and Utah’s Enterprise and Beaver regions of Utah, which fall within the Great Basin.

From the National Park Service: Defining the Great Basin begins with a choice: are you looking at the way the water flows (hydrographic), the way the landscape formed (geologic), or the resident plants and animals (biologic)? Each of these definitions will give you a slightly different geographic boundary of the Great Basin, but the hydrographic definition is the most commonly used. | Map courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News
From the National Park Service: Defining the Great Basin begins with a choice: are you looking at the way the water flows (hydrographic), the way the landscape formed (geologic), or the resident plants and animals (biologic)? Each of these definitions will give you a slightly different geographic boundary of the Great Basin, but the hydrographic definition is the most commonly used. | Map courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News

The trees would otherwise be wasted, and producing products from the felled trees will let Caliente Firewood contract to clear the trees at a lower price, the company’s owner, Gary Barnett, said, allowing the BLM to clear more acres on its limited budget.

Caliente Firewood hopes to sell 4,000 T-shirts or raise $40,000 through GoFundMe.com, Barnett said in a statement. The pellet mill is the last piece of a strategy that will allow the company to help restore sagebrush habitat.

Due to suppression of wildfires and other factors in the Great Basin, pinyon and juniper have expanded tenfold in the last 150 years, Barnett said. Tree coverage of the sagebrush steppe has gone from less than one-third to over two-thirds of the Great Basin, now totaling 17.6 million acres of pinyon juniper woodlands.

“My goal is to restore 10,000 acres or more of habitat for each location and bring in 50 to 100 much-needed jobs to each of these locations,” Barnett said. Barnett has plans for facilities in several Nevada counties, as well as in Beaver and Enterprise in Utah.

The Great Basin Desert, outlined in black on the map insert, is defined by plant and animal communities, according to the National Park Service’s Web page, which provides the following description:

The climate is affected by the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains. It is a temperate desert with hot, dry summers and snowy winters. The valleys are dominated by sagebrush and shadescale. The biologic communities on the mountain ranges differ with elevation, and the individual ranges act as islands isolated by seas of desert vegetation. Because the Great Basin exhibits such drastic elevation changes from its valleys to its peaks, the region supports an impressive diversity of species, from those adapted to the desert to those adapted to forest and alpine environments.

The loss of sagebrush habitat from pinyon and juniper has adversely affected population size of the 350-plus species that live on the sagebrush steppe. Pinyon-juniper expansion is believed to be a major factor resulting in the decline of sage-grouse, which are currently under consideration for an endangered species listing.


Read more: Local, state officials respond to release of sage-grouse land use plans


Sage grouse, mule deer, pygmy rabbits and other species are declining in numbers due to the loss of habitat, but all respond favorably to removal of pinyon and juniper, Barnett said.

Pinyon-juniper woodlands are classified in three phases, Barnett said.

In the first phase, some trees are present but sagebrush and other plants dominate the landscape, and this is the historical norm.

In the second phase, trees cover more of the landscape, Barnett said, but sagebrush and other shrubs are still present.

In the third phase, pinyon and juniper trees dominate the landscape, leaving little or no underbrush and increasing both soil erosion and the risk of catastrophic fires, Barnett said. When land in the third phase burns, it is unlikely to return to a sagebrush community, and most burned areas are taken over by invasive weeds such as cheat grass. With 100,000 acres per year turning into phase 3 in the Great Basin, the loss of habitat for the 350-plus species of the sagebrush steppe is alarming.

Currently, pinyon and juniper expansion is treated in different ways and costs from $10 to $100 per acre, which limits the acreage that can be treated each year and leaves trees on the ground to rot. Utilization of pinyon-juniper by companies such as Barnett’s can reduce the cost of these treatments and increase the amount of land that can be treated and restored by the BLM each year.

Caliente Firewood currently produces firewood, fence posts and biochar – a soil amendment that also holds carbon. Adding pellets to the company’s production will allow more trees to be utilized.

The company plans to donate a portion of all profits to a wildlife charity to reseed the cut areas, to further enhance the habitat, he said.

Ed. note: St. George News has not verified information provided in connection with fundraising accounts mentioned in this article. Those considering contributions are advised to consult with their own professionals for tax advice and investment risks.

St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic

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Submitted by Gary Barnett, Caliente Firewood

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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9 Comments

  • sagemoon July 25, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    This is a good idea.

    • native born new mexican July 26, 2015 at 9:15 am

      I agree!!

  • mesaman July 25, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    And in the process remove firewood collection by individual consumers. No, not a good idea unless they are willing to set aside areas for personal, non-consumer use.

    • native born new mexican July 26, 2015 at 9:19 am

      Mesaman you are correct about your point. This arrangement should not exclude private individuals having access as well.

      • garybarnett July 27, 2015 at 6:00 pm

        I will be doing this on B.L.M. contracts. Anyone can go in and get a personal permit and cut up to 10 cords of firewood per year on all land that is open for cutting. It doesn’t change personal firewood cutting. I am just trying to take the wood that is being cut and left to rot on these contracts and use it for the different products.

  • Free Parking July 26, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Oh I’m sure someone will suggest another Mormon church go up

    • mesaman July 26, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      Get over it, freebie. There’s more to life than being a liberal whiner. WHINO = White House Involved in Nurturing Oddballs.

  • Free Parking July 26, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Hey mesadork… Yawwwwwwwwwwn

  • Free Parking July 26, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Get over it whiner mesadork

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