Details: (Because this is the most encompassing and longest part of the project, it is the most expensive)
Diesel Fuel: All of the pieces of heavy equipment use diesel fuel. Recently diesel fuel prices jumped up to the same as gas prices and some times even a little higher.
Parts: As you can imagine, operating big equipment like this out in the boonies can be expensive. Just one example is that one day during the Horse Meadow dam project, the starter
on the excavator burned up. It took us 3 hours to remove the starter and then Tim had to drive all the way to Reno, NV to find a replacement. The replacement was $325.00. Then
the drive back and a couple hours installing the new starter. Besides the money, it cost us a full day of work. They seem to always busting a hydraulic hose, denting a hoist cylinder,
bending something or breaking something. Hazards of the occupation.
Road work: In order to get the trees chipped and hauled out, the 18 wheelers have to be able to get to the chipping site. That means they have to have a road to travel on. A lot of
Tim's (my lead forester) time is spent making the roads. In a cost analysis aspect, this is lost money. Hauling the chips out makes money but there is no actual return for time spent on
making the roads.
These prices are somewhat hard to list because they vary from week to week. This week the property is snowed in so nobody is working. Next week, they may be going full strength.
Some weeks, everything goes well and the chips pay for everything. Some weeks, parts break and the chips do not cover the operation costs (wages, insurance, etc.) with the added
costs of the repairs.
Before man started interfering with the environment, nature managed the abundance of the Juniper tree through fire. The natural cycle of things used to be that an area like the one shown
here, would experience a fire every 50 to 80 years. These fires would burn up the majority of the smaller Junipers. The biggest trees would survive the fires and start the process all over
again by producing seeds that the birds would spread. Soon, there would be a new crop of small trees growing.
Due to our forestry management methods, we have not allowed wildfires to burn naturaly for many decades. When a fire starts, we immediately pounce on it and try to put it out. Due to
this practice, the Juniper tree is marching across the western states and becoming the dominant species in many areas. It accomplishes this in two ways. First, it dominates the available
water. The trees can survive on very arid soil but they will also use massive amounts of water if it is available. The root system of the tree does not go very deep. Instead, it stays fairly
shallow and spreads out just under the surface of the ground. Therefore, it consumes the water that other nearby vegetation needs to survive. The other way the tree dominates its
surroundings is by growing close together. The upper limbs of these close growing trees produce a canopy which essentially blocks out the sunlight that the other vegetation needs to
Much of the other vegetation that is being dominated and impacted by the Juniper is used as food by the local wildlife. Antelope Bitterbrush and Mountain Mahogany are both vital browse
plants for the Mule Deer herd and both plants are being crowded out. The perennial grasses, wildflowers, clover and sage brush provide forage for a multitude of animals in this area and
all of these plants are being impacted by the spread of the Junipers.
This property used to have several watering holes that retained water throughout most of the year. In the last 15 years, some of them have completely dried up. The remaining watering
holes have much less water in them than they used to. All of these watering holes have become surrounded by Juniper trees which are using the water that the wildlife and other vegetation
The basic goal of the Coon Camp Springs Habitat Restoration Project is to bring this property back to the natural cycle of things. The largest part of this project is to control the spread of
the Junipers. Because we can not do it by fire, we are using heavy equipment to accomplish what a fire would do. We are removing the majority of the small Juniper trees. In the
meadows, flats and around the watering holes, we are removing all of the Junipers. On the crests and hill tops, we are thinning the trees but leaving enough of them so that the wildlife can
use them for cover. In some places, we are leaving small clumps of the trees so that the wildlife can use these for bedding areas. In various areas, we are making brush piles with the cut
limbs of the Junipers in order to provide nesting areas and cover for small birds and rodents.
An additional benefit of our Juniper reduction project is that the cut trees are being used for co-generation of electricity at the Honey Lake Power Plant. This reduces the amount of natural
gas the power plant has to use to generate power for the grid.
Below, you will find some pictures that show how this project works.
This machine is commonly called a Buncher. It has a set of clamps that go around the trunk of the tree and then clamp down on it. Then a saw at
the bottom comes out and cuts through the trunk. The operator then uses the arm of the buncher and puts the trees in piles or "bunches".
The trees are left in the piles for 2 to 3 weeks so that the wood dries out somewhat. Then this machine, which is called a
Skidder, uses a big pincher fork on the front to pick up the piles and move them to the chipping area.
The Chipper has a similar pincher style fork that it uses to pick up the individual trees and feed them into the
chipping chute. The trees are fed into the area in front of and under the operator. A chute extends off of the rear
of the machine. This is where the trees come out as chips. The chute is directed into the back of an 18-wheeler
trailor. The chips come out of the chute at such velocity that they hit the front wall of the trailer. Once the trailer is
full, the door is closed and the chips are hauled to the power plant.
The picture above on the left is the same picture that was used at the top of this page. This is Horse Meadow and the ridge to the east of the meadow. The arrow points out a small
3 pronged Juniper tree in among all of the other Junipers. This picture was taken on July 7, 2004.If you examine the meadow and the ridge behind it you will see that they are both
overgrown. Most of those trees are Junipers.
The picture on the right was taken on August 8, 2004. It was taken from approximately the same place. It also has an arrow pointing out the same little Juniper. The big difference
is that almost all of the other Junipers that had taken over Horse Meadow are gone. On the ridge there are a few left and there are a lot of Jefferey Pine trees, Antelope Bitterbrush
plants and Mountain Mahogany trees that are now basking in the sun.