Utah BLM, DNR announce new 5-year agreement supporting Watershed Restoration Initiative

Utah Bureau of Land Management employees work on building a wildlife "guzzler" circa June 2013, location not specified. | Photo courtesy of Utah BLM, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Bureau of Land Management and the Utah Department of Natural Resources have entered into a new five-year financial cooperative agreement supporting Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative, which uses locally-driven projects to improve watershed health, biological diversity, and water quality.

According to a press release, the BLM may contribute up to $75 million over the lifetime of this five-year agreement.

In fiscal year 2019, the BLM contributed over $10 million dollars to the partnership, which resulted in treatment of nearly 93,000 acres of upland habitat; 2,369 acres of riverine and riparian habitat; and 162 miles of stream and river corridors.

Watershed Restoration Initiative projects range from improvements to rangeland, riparian and aquatic habitat, greater sage-grouse and large game habitat to projects focused on hazardous fuels reduction, post-fire emergency stabilization and rehabilitation, and noxious and invasive weed reduction.

“The WRI is an important component of our wildfire fuels reduction efforts and wildlife habitat improvements across Utah,” BLM Utah State Director Ed Roberson said in the press release. “We are proud to be a part of such a meaningful and innovative partnership and thank the Utah Department of Natural Resources for their leadership. This five-year agreement is just one of the ways we work together to manage our Nation’s natural resources.”

Before and after shots of vegetation treatment in Kane County, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Utah BLM, St. George News

DNR Executive Director Brian Steed said the continued support of the BLM is critical to the overall success of WRI.

“As Utah expands and our population increases, we have a growing obligation to manage, protect and restore watersheds throughout Utah,” Steed said. “Our joint efforts are invaluable as they reduce catastrophic wildfire risks, increase water quality and yield, protect and rehabilitate vital habitats for many species and provide economic benefits for local economies.”

Miles Moretti, president and CEO of the Mule Deer Foundation, said Utah’s WRI is improving habitat for mule deer and all wildlife at a “landscape scale not seen anywhere in the Western United States.”

“The WRI is successful because of the partnership between Federal and State agencies, private landowners and wildlife conservation groups all working toward a common goal and that is high quality habitat in our forests and rangelands.”

Over 500 agencies, organizations and individuals have contributed to WRI projects by providing funding and/or in-kind assistance, the press release states. Partners include local governments, universities, state agencies, federal agencies and other organizations.

Since the WRI’s beginning in 2005, the BLM has contributed over 80 million dollars in funding to support WRI projects. Through the WRI, partner organizations have completed 2,120 projects on 1,824,842 acres throughout the state of Utah.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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