The petition contains the first estimates of the total area of jay-juniper habitat currently handled by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service in states with jay populations. The estimate “indicates a substantial loss of suitable jay habitat on federal lands,” with more than 440,000 acres affected, the petition said.
That’s why listing jays as endangered is critical, Bird said: “It will require them to do a serious study of the impact on birds” and to consult the Fish and Wildlife Service before treating jay habitats. Johnson agreed, saying listing the jay as an endangered species would have a “huge impact” as agencies would be required to change their management plans.
Throughout history, Aboriginal people People all over the West seek out pine nuts as an important food supply in winter and barren years. When the Spaniards arrived in the Southwest in the 1500s, they also began collecting protein-rich oilseeds. The long tradition of home picking pine nuts continues today in many communities. However, threats to pine forests endanger these cultural practices.
“I’ve been picking piñon since I could walk,” said Raymond Sisneros, a retired garden teacher who farms outside Cuban towns with a family that goes back to the first Spanish settlers.
If the pine trees near their home were not productive, his family would drive to another location. His grandfather taught him how to harvest nuts, and he sold them door-to-door in nearby towns. Piñon is not a treat, he says, but a “lifestyle”, a source of food and income. It’s hard to find a New Mexico pinion for sale right now.
The last time Sisneros had a big harvest near his home was four years ago, when his family traveled all the way from Tennessee and California to gather Pinion. But those traditions may be coming to an end. “I’m scared because our piñon forests are disappearing,” he said. Large trees that once produced more than 100 pounds of pine nuts died from the drought, he said.
Val Panteah, the governor of Zuni Pueblo in northwest New Mexico, said many tribesmen gather piñon in late fall. He remembers harvesting pine nuts with his family as a teenager, climbing up trees and shaking branches so the nuts would fall to sheets on the ground.
Over the years, Panteah has observed changes in piñon crops. “When I was really young, it seemed like every year” or every other year, he said, “but now, it feels like every four years.”
Jays may offer conifer-juniper forests the best hope for resilience. They are “the only species that can move woodland up hillsides in the event of a fire,” Johnson said, “or by transporting seeds away from degraded areas to replant areas burned or destroyed by insects or drought”.
However, the close association of these species also leads to what Johnson calls a vicious circle. If the bird is lost, the woodland cannot be replanted.
If woodland is not replanted, bird populations will decline.
For trees, birds and people, she said, “losing these woodlands would be tragic for us.”