The Triangle Allotment Sage Steppe Restoration Project is another typical juniper
removal project for the Modoc National Forest. The only restoration action by the
Forest Service is the removal of juniper and as usual this included removal of many
“protected” old growth juniper.
The Environmental Assessment (EA) for this project on page 13, Comparison of Alternatives,
states: “The proposed action stipulates that juniper with “old growth” characteristics
would not be removed.” We submitted our comments concerning the retention of old
growth juniper during the public scoping of the Triangle project EA. The Forest Service
responded to our comments in Appendix B, page 45, of the Final EA: “All contractor
work orders issued will specify that old growth juniper will be left untreated. The
project site would be inspected on a regular basis to ensure compliance with these
design criteria.” On page 50 the Forest Service responded to another of our comments:
“ A pre-project meeting will be scheduled with the contractor to insure that it is
understood old growth trees are not to be removed during treatment. Project inspection
will be conducted on a regular basis to communicate directly with those doing the
actual treatment for education and enforcement of the old growth retention design
On page 10 of the EA in section 2.4 Proposed Action, bullet 4, the Forest Service
states in bold print: “Old growth juniper would not be treated.” The EA then lists
the characteristics for old growth juniper.
On August 26, 2015 we met with the Devil’s Garden District Ranger, the Rangeland
Management Specialist and the NEPA specialist on the site of a newly proposed MNF
juniper removal project. The Triangle project had not been implemented at this time.
During the conversation we volunteered some GPS and photo data we had collected on
old growth juniper for a small eight acre area within the Triangle project. This
data was gladly accepted by the Forest Service.
November 5, 2016 we visited this eight acre area where we had collected individual
tree data back in 2015. We found that the Forest Service had actually used our data
and had put blue flags on some, but not all, of the old growth juniper that we had
identified. Not one old growth tree with a blue flag was cut down during implementation.
However, of the 39 old growth trees we identified, the Forest Service cut down 15
or 38% of these identified old trees. These were obvious old growth juniper with
diameters up to 48 inches. We also found nine other obvious old growth trees cut
down in this area for which we had not included data. The Forest Service even cut
down a younger juniper that had been flagged with archeology tape and also had an
aluminum FS Datum tag that was nailed to its trunk in 1955.
For years we have been urging the Forest Service to flag off old juniper stands as
out of bounds to contractors in order to preserve the old trees. This is the first
time the Forest Service actually flagged some individual trees and, as we found,
not one flagged old tree was cut down by the contractor. Unfortunately the Forest
Service did not flag all the old trees and many old growth without flags were cut
Antelope Plains is another juniper removal project, not implemented yet, where we
have collected GPS/Photo data for old growth juniper stands. We have shared one data
set with the Forest Service and they have used orange tape to create a boundary around
the old growth stand. We have GPS/Photo data for a different old growth juniper stand
within the Antelope Plain project area which we have not shared with the Forest service.
There are no orange flags around this separate stand of old trees. We will be able
compare the final results from these two areas and then make suggestions to the Forest
Service based on old growth stands with flags and those without flagged boundaries.
Unfortunately, we suspect that old growth juniper will be cut down everywhere there
are no flags. If we are lucky, the old growth will be preserved where the Forest
Service flagged the old growth trees as out of bounds.
The measuring stick has six inch increments.
The four images above are all old growth juniper cut down by the Forest Service on
the Triangle project. Each old tree had multiple old growth characteristics but were
still cut. A juniper should only need one old growth characteristic in order to be
These two images are of the same tree on the Triangle project located by GPS data
November 24, 2013 and again November 5, 2016. When the Forest Service cuts down such
an obvious old growth juniper during implementation after repeating several times
in their EA that old growth juniper will not be treated, the Forest Service looses
all credibility as a public land manager. This is not habitat restoration but complete
and utter mismanagement of our public resources.
This old juniper has deeply furrowed fibrous bark, an asymmetrical shape and large
lower limbs. These are three of the morphological characteristics of an old growth
juniper. This project was not a habitat restoration project but strictly a juniper
thinning project that destroyed many old growth juniper. The Forest Service project
manager completely disregarded the Forest Service EA design criteria that prohibited
the cutting of old growth juniper and let this happen.
This is another old juniper for which we gave GPS data to the Forest Service. Of
the 39 old growth juniper that we documented with data and photos, the Forest Service
cut down 15 or 38%. The MNF also cut down nine other old growth juniper in this small
eight acre area of the Triangle project.
This old growth juniper protected Cusick’s Stickseed (Hackelia cusickii) before it
was cut down by the MNF. This plant is included in the CNPS Inventory of Rare and
Endangered Plants on list 4.3 (limited distribution) and survives in this area only
underneath old growth juniper. Once the protection of the old tree is gone the Cusick’s
Stickseed disappears. The arrow in the middle image points to the stickseed. Click
on the image for a larger view.
The Forest Service decided to leave this young juniper but decided to cut down the
old growth juniper all around it. We have not yet been able to figure out the rationale
the Modoc National Forest uses when it decides which trees to cut down and which
to leave. The MNF certainly does not use its own published Environmental Assessment
or its own project design criteria within the EA. All of the images below are of
old growth juniper that were cut down by the MNF during the implementation of the
Triangle juniper removal project, all within the small eight acre area.