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Aug. 17, 2022

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U.S. to spend $9 million in West to bolster sagebrush ecosystems

Washington, 7 other states to benefit from federal effort

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FILE - U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland speaks after signing the agreement for the Navajo federal reserved water rights settlement at Monument Valley, Utah on Friday, May 27, 2022. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Thursday, June 16, 2022 announced $9 million for 40 projects in Idaho and seven other Western states for sagebrush ecosystems to combat invasive species and wildfire, reduce the spread of juniper trees and promote community and economic stability.
FILE - U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland speaks after signing the agreement for the Navajo federal reserved water rights settlement at Monument Valley, Utah on Friday, May 27, 2022. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Thursday, June 16, 2022 announced $9 million for 40 projects in Idaho and seven other Western states for sagebrush ecosystems to combat invasive species and wildfire, reduce the spread of juniper trees and promote community and economic stability. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File) (Associated Press files) Photo Gallery

OROFINO, Idaho — Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Thursday announced $9 million for 40 projects in Washington and seven other Western states for sagebrush ecosystems to combat invasive species and wildfire, reduce the spread of juniper trees and promote community and economic stability.

The money announced Thursday will be used in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and Nevada. Haaland said the money will advance efforts to promote healthy sagebrush landscapes and communities threatened by climate change.

“This is an historic opportunity to put resources into the health and natural infrastructure of America’s sagebrush ecosystem, which serves as the lifeblood of rural communities and Tribal lands in the West,” said Haaland in a statement issued while visiting northern Idaho.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is receiving $10 million per year for five years to expand work to conserve sagebrush ecosystems. The ecosystem faces a variety of threats, notably from cheatgrass, which is prone to wildfire and wipes out native plants that sage grouse need to survive.

Sage grouse are chicken-sized, ground-dwelling birds considered an indicator species for the health of vast sagebrush landscapes in the West that support some 350 species of wildlife. Sage grouse populations have been declining.

“Sagebrush country is a national treasure that supports hundreds of species that live nowhere else on the planet,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams in a statement.

Giant rangeland wildfires in recent decades have destroyed vast areas of sagebrush steppe. Experts say the wildfires have mainly been driven by warming temperatures and cheatgrass. Once cheatgrass takes over, the land is of little value.

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