Bulldozing Aspen to Grow Aspen
by Darren McAvoy
For the past few years, Utah landowner Mike Siaperas has been bulldozing openings in his mature aspen forest to grow a younger and more pure aspen forest on the Tavaputs Plateau southeast of Price. Siaperas, who received the Forest Landowner of the Year award in 2011, was concerned about how subalpine fir trees were taking over his aspen. He sought the advice of Natalie Conlin, Southeast Area Forester, for the Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands.
Western aspen most often reproduces from the roots through vegetative sprouting or suckering. The lack of disturbance on much of the Tavaputs Plateau and in much of Utah’s forests means that there is a lack of young aspen forests. Many bird and mammal species depend on young aspen for breeding and foraging habitat. Wildlife biologists tend to be concerned about the lack of young aspen on Utah landscapes overall.
Siaperas is pushing over aspen and other trees to create openings in what is otherwise a fairly continuous forest of aspen being taken over by fir trees. Aspen is a pioneer species, meaning it is one of the first plants that grow after a disturbance. Aspens eventually shade the forest floor, creating an environment better suited to fir trees, which are shade tolerant and tend to crowd out the aspens over time. Forests develop this way in a process called succession.