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Protections sought for pinyon jays as a way to protect climate-stressed trees

Environmentalists announced Tuesday that they're petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the pinyon jay under the Endangered Species Act as a way to save the species and the trees.

The birds are inextricably linked to the piñon and juniper forests that span the Western United States. Their numbers have been declining for the last half century, according to wildlife officials.

Jays are very social birds and are known for stashing away piñon seeds, a habit that helps propagate the next generation of trees.

Piñon and juniper forests across the West are showing the stress of climate change, hotter and drier conditions and more severe wildfires. Across the Colorado Plateau, there are mass die-off sites of juniper trees.