ALBUQUERQUE, NM ( Associated Press) — Gathering pine nuts has been a tradition for generations of Native American and Hispanic families in the southwestern US.
But environmentalists are concerned that without the pinyon jay—a very social bird that essentially plants the next generation of trees by snatching seeds—it’s possible that the pine forests of New Mexico, Nevada and other western states face another reproductive barrier. can face. Climate change, frequent droughts and more severe wildfires.
The Washington, DC-based group Defenders of Wildlife filed a petition Monday with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the bird under the Endangered Species Act, saying the once common species plays an integral role in high desert ecosystems. Performs.
The group points to research that shows pinyon jay numbers have declined by an estimated 80% over the past five decades, a rate even faster than the greater sage grouse.
Patricia Estrella, who represents the group in New Mexico, said while the population decline is well documented, the exact cause is unclear as multiple threats are at play.
Estrella wrote in the petition, “Not only is it difficult to tease out the effects of interacting factors, together they create even greater danger through positive responses.” “Successful conservation of Pinyon jay requires addressing and rectifying multiple threats at once.”
Pinone-juniper forests cover more than 75,000 square miles (194,249 square kilometers) in the United States, and wildlife managers in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada and New Mexico have already recognized the bird as the largest classified as a species. need.
About 60% of the remaining population of jay can be found in New Mexico and Nevada, but its range also includes parts of central Oregon and California, Utah, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and northern Baja California in Mexico.
Light blue with a white bib, the Pinyon Jay is usually a companion for life. When food is plentiful, they may nest more than once a year.
Their home range can be large, with birds flying over hundreds of miles when food is scarce.
The petition highlights research that is clearing more pion and juniper woodlands around the West for housing development, agriculture, and solar and wind power projects, and land managers to reduce the risk of wildfires. lets see.
The Biden administration’s infrastructure includes $500 million for scheduled burns over five years, $500 million for mechanical tree felling and $500 million for clearing fuel brakes. Wildlife defenders and others are concerned that managers will be able to move forward with many projects without public input or a more detailed environmental review.
The petition states that studies documenting the effects of woodland reduction on Pinyon jay populations are few, but some scientists are recommending that land managers avoid nesting and pastures.
When the betel crop is good, Jai starts the morning by eating seeds. They then collect the seeds, congregate in the top of the tree and move together to caching areas which are usually open spaces where little snow accumulates in winter.
Research has shown that they have excellent memory and retrieve more cached seeds than other types of jays or nutcrackers, but seeds that are uncollected are left to germinate.
According to the petition, the loss of pinyon trees would adversely affect Native American and Hispanic communities in the Southwest. Every fall, families head to the forest to harvest seeds.
Nuts are usually roasted and salted, but their popularity has now extended beyond Southwest cuisine, including as a topping for pancakes, brownies, pizza, and salads.
It will be up to the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether the petition contains sufficient information for further review. Which could take months.