About Piñon-Juniper Forests


About Piñon-Juniper Forests

Pinyon-juniper forests, also spelled Piñon-Juniper, are a specific type of forest community ranging throughout the inter-mountain West, covering over 40 million hectacres.  These forests are populated with ancient trees whose pine nuts and juniper berries have provided nourishment for both animals and humans for thousands of years or longer.  An estimated 450 species of vascular plants and over 150 vertebrate species call these forests home.  These important forests protect soil, sequester greenhouse gases, and contain individual trees that can grow to more than 1000 years of age.

Environmental campaigns in the west, especially in Washington, Oregon, California, have been relatively effective at slowing or halting the logging of old growth forest and vomiting restrictions on logging company activities. This is not the case in Intermountain west, where forest cutting continues indiscriminately.

Indigenous History

The pinyon seed has always been a sacred source of nourishment for many forms of life, including humans.  Juniper trees have also been used to make bow staves by indigenous peoples of the area.

According to Piñon-juniper expert Dr. Ronald Lanner in his book The Pinon Pine – A Natural and Cultural History, “A tree is what you make of it, and once, much was made of the pinon. This little tree produced the fuel, building materials, food, and medicines that enabled pre-historic Indians to establish their cultures on the Colorado Plateau — and to survive into the present as Hopi, Zuni, Pueblo, and Navajo. It was the pinon that made the Great Basin the coarse-grained Eden of the pine-nut eaters who picked their winter sustenance from the treetops: the Washo, the Shoshones, the Paiutes.”


For more information on the false science behind these tree-killing schemes, please check out the following article: BLM’s False Claims to Virtue – San Diego Free Press

Piñon-Juniper Trees and Wildlife

In a powerful article entitled, The Language of Pinyon-Juniper Trees, DGR activist and author Will Falk describes the extremely biodiverse nature of Pinyon-Juniper forest communities, “with around 450 species of vascular plants living alongside pinyon pines and junipers.  Additionally, over 150 vertebrate species of animals including elk, mule deer, and bears call pinyon-juniper forests home either seasonally or throughout the year. “

Falk goes on to share, “The trees also yield plentiful berries and house a high insect diversity for birds to eat. Mammals also eat the berries while seeking shelter in hollow juniper trunks, taking advantage of the trees’ shade in hot temperatures and the trees’ thermal cover in cold temperatures.  Pinyon pines offer similar benefits to forest-dwellers. For example, pinyon mice, Abert’s squirrels, cliff chipmunks, Uinta chipmunks, wood rats, desert bighorn sheep, and black bears all eat pinyon pine nuts.”

Despite offering many points to convey the immense value of Pinyon-Juniper forests to human and animals communities, Falk also calls on his readers to remember another important point: “Pinyon-juniper forests exist, just like you and I do, for their own sake. A forest is not a forest to be habitat, to be food, or to sequester carbon. A forest is a forest to be a forest. It’s as simple as that..”

To read more please visit: The Language of Pinyon-Juniper Trees – San Diego Free Press


Editor’s note: For further reading on Piñon-Juniper Forests and the need for their protection, please take a look at Will Falk of DGR’s multi-part series found on the DGR News Service:

Part one, “Pinyon-Juniper Forests: An Ancient Vision Disturbed,” excerpted above,  can be found here.

Part two, “Pinyon-Juniper Forests: The Oldest Refugee Crisis,” can be found here.