Funds from the Biden administration will go towards improving aquatic and wildlife habitats in two areas of Utah.
The federal government is investing $160 million in public lands — including over $19 million for two sites in Utah — to restore landscapes, restore wildlife habitats, and improve water supplies on public lands. The effort is part of President Joe Biden’s Investing in America agenda.
In a news conference on Wednesday, Bureau of Land Management heads announced that a total of 21 sites would receive funding for restoration. Those locations included two in Beehive State – the Upper Bear River in northeastern Utah and Color Country in southwestern Utah. The Upper Bear will receive $9.6 million in funding, while Color Country will receive $9.73 million.
“The areas restored as part of this effort will improve water quality and quantity, create better habitats for fish and wildlife, and provide better recreational opportunities,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, BLM director. “These efforts will also make these areas more resilient to wildfires and drought. Simply put, restored public lands offer greater value to the American people.”
“The population boom in southwestern Utah is in large part why the BLM has chosen to focus some funding in this region of the country,” said Tomer Hasson, BLM senior policy advisor, during the press conference . More specifically, restoring mesic habitats—that is, land areas with a healthy water supply, such as springs and irrigated fields—and removing marsh grass and conifers is a focus of the area.
Hasson said a key driver of population growth is outdoor recreation, which the BLM aims to ensure protection.
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“A significant amount of investment that BLM will be investing in this particular reclamation landscape will be to ensure that the BLM areas there serve this population and provide the type of recreational opportunities that people are looking for,” Hasson said Wednesday.
In northern Utah, the BLM also plans to focus on improving and restoring riverbanks around the Upper Bear River. It will also focus on planting and conserving native plants, improving river crossings and restoring habitats for migratory birds and big game, according to a press release from the BLM Utah State Office.
Hasson said the goal is to improve the Upper Bear’s water system to allow more water to flow into the rivers that ultimately drain into the Great Salt Lake. He added that the BLM will continue to work with those who have grazing permits and previous plots in the area.
In both areas, the BLM will also focus on habitat restoration of the sage grouse.
“The funds provided by the Inflation Reduction Act will provide unprecedented opportunities to restore two of Utah’s most important landscapes,” said Greg Sheehan, BLM Utah State Director, in a press release.
During the press conference, Hasson said the funds could be available as early as this fiscal year, but the funds will also be disbursed over the next two years.
The BLM restoration effort will focus on states throughout the West, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Wyoming.