Friday, September 29, 2023
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Millions in federal funding set to restore public lands across western states

Funding for the Bureau of Land Management’s massive project will begin in 2023 and continue through the end of 2025.

(CN) — The Bureau of Land Management announced on Wednesday that it is receiving $161 million in federal funding to restore several landscapes across the western United States, an effort the agency says will create jobs and recreational opportunities while improving water quality and critical habitats.

“Restoration Landscapes,” as the project is called, is part of the Biden administration’s Investing in America agenda and will receive funding through the Inflation Reduction Act — a health care and tax bill focused on reducing drug prices and combating climate change.

Bureau representatives said the project would rely on local and state partnerships to restore 21 landscapes across 11 western states, including Alaska — all of which were chosen based on ecological need and their importance to local communities.

Two such sites are in southern Oregon to increase fire resiliency and protect native vegetation. Another, located just north of San Francisco, will focus on restoring wildlife habitats and riparian areas of the Cosumnes River watershed. Combined, the two states will receive $17.6 million of the total funding, where most of the project’s financial allocations will focus on 10 sites across Utah ($19.33 million), Idaho ($26.95 million), Montana ($16.3 million) and Wyoming ($20 million).

Bureau director Tracy Stone-Manning said restoration investments in each state are landscape specific and tailored to address threats and habitat health. More broad investments for public lands, she said, will include addressing fuel loads to reduce the severity of wildfires, improving water quality in riparian systems and finding ways to ensure people can safely recreate while preserving lands.

“I note that these are large landscapes,” said bureau senior policy adviser Tomer Hasson. “The BLM fully intends that other uses in these landscapes will continue to be appropriately considered.”

Hasson noted that the bureau is a multiple-use agency and that restoration landscape boundaries would not alter its planning process or its review or approval of applications for uses such as new renewable energy or transmission development.

“Restoration decisions will be made at the project scale and will take into consideration all existing rights and privileges and the possibility of new uses as allowed by land use plans,” Hasson said.

When asked how the project will affect the bureau’s relationship with grazing permittees, bureau state director for Colorado, Doug Vilsack, said that when restoring landscapes, the bureau is restoring landscapes for its multiple users. Vilsack added that the project offers other benefits to grazing permittees, such as a project in North Park, Colorado, that will transition current fences to “wildlife friendly fencing.”

“So really our agriculture community will be most impacted because they will benefit and they are key partners of ours in a lot of these restoration landscapes,” Vilsack said.

Additionally, Vilsack explained that the bureau’s work in the San Luis Valley will restore over 1,000 acres of wetlands to improve habitats and water well infrastructure, including the restoration of significant cultural areas and planned outreach to underrepresented communities to inform them about available resources.

“These new investments will enable us to continue to collaborate with our many partners at all levels of government and tribal authority, private landowners, farmers and ranchers, volunteers, universities and nonprofits to complement and multiply our efforts,” Vilsack said.

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Categories / Environment, Government

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