State bestowed funds for two sagebrush projects

WYOMING – Two Wyoming projects are included in the new sagebrush projects allotment from the 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Together, they are scheduled to receive $1 million in financing.

These projects, which cleared votes in both chambers of Congress, combat invasive grasses and wildfire, reduce encroaching conifers, safeguard precious water resources for neighboring communities and wildlife, as well as promoting community and economic sustainability. Sagebrush country spans over 175 million acres and is home to more than 350 species.

“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,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said. “President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history and will meaningfully advance on-the-ground efforts to promote healthy sagebrush landscapes and communities that have been threatened by the climate crisis.”

One of the projects approved for Wyoming is the Collaborative Sage-Steppe Mesic Habitat Restoration project. It’s intended to restore more than 10,000 acres of wet meadow habitat on largely private rangelands to increase species diversity and drought resilience in core sagebrush habitats. This project aims to use a variety of techniques ranging from off-stream water and fencing to hand-built rock structures to in-stream engineering. Along with several partners, the project has been allocated $250,000.

The other project planned for Wyoming is the Invasive Annual Grass Management Collaborative – which is a partnership between the Fish & Wildlife Service, State of Wyoming, Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe tribes, USDA agencies and local governments among others. That project aims to control invasive grass and protect approximately 100,000 acres of sagebrush habitat on mixed-ownership lands in Wyoming through on-the-ground treatments. That endeavor has been allocated for $750,000.

These projects will create jobs, which the Fish & Wildlife Services said will strengthen local economies.

“Sagebrush country is a national treasure that supports hundreds of species that live nowhere else on the planet,” FWS director Martha Williams said. “The service is a partner in a large constellation of public and private entities pulling together toward a common vision for a healthy sagebrush ecosystem. Our work in this landscape is reflective of agency priorities including supporting rangeland health, growing private landowner partnerships and public access, and reducing the need to list species as federally threatened or endangered.”

The first round of sagebrush funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was awarded to habitat projects that ensure safety. Projects will increase resilience to drought and rangeland fire by restoring wetlands and combating non-native grasses that increase the threat of wildfire and reduce habitats for wildlife and forage for livestock.

Projects were prioritized by the Fish & Wildlife Service’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Team and its partners, which includes the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. By anchoring conservation in these habitats, all partners will focus on working to restore degraded lands and habitat through the “Defend The Core, Grow The Core” approach endorsed by the Western Governors Association.

In total, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will support over 40 projects across eight different Western states.