OROFINO, Idaho – Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland today announced that the Biden-Harris administration will invest more than $9 million in fiscal year 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds to support over 40 projects in Idaho and 7 other western states to restore and conserve strategic areas within theecosystem. These projects will combat invasive grasses and wildfire, reduce encroaching conifers, safeguard precious water resources for neighboring communities and wildlife, and promote community and economic sustainability.
Spanning over 175 million acres, sagebrush country contains biological, cultural and economic resources of national significance. It is home to more than 350 species across the West, including pronghorn, elk, mule deer and greater sage grouse. America’s sagebrush ecosystem is the largest contiguous ecotype in the United States, comprising one-third of the land mass of the lower 48 states.
“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 Secretary Haaland. “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.”
Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was appropriated $10 million per year for the next five years to expand work with partners to conserve the sagebrush ecosystem. Projects will help create good-paying jobs that strengthen local economies, invest in disadvantaged communities consistent with the President’s Justice 40 initiative, and further the strong working relationship between the Department, states and Tribes in these landscapes.
“Sagebrush country is a national treasure that supports hundreds of species that live nowhere else on the planet,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “The Service is a partner in a larger 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.”
Sagebrush funding will be allocated to existing and new projects based on priorities established by the Service’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Team (SET) and partners, including the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). The SET, WAFWA and others are employing a collaborative approach to defend and grow intact, functioning sagebrush geographies and mitigate the primary threats to sagebrush ecological health, namely invasive grasses and wildfire, drought and encroaching conifers. By anchoring conservation in these areas, the Service and its partners can focus on working to restore degraded lands and habitat through the “Defend the Core, Grow the Core” approach endorsed by the Western Governors Association.
Importantly, this investment will serve as a roadmap for other federal investments of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law resources in sagebrush country. The Service is committed to working with local communities, state and federal agencies, Tribes, conservation groups and private sector partners to ensure they have the tools they need to conserve and enhance these important areas.
The first round of sagebrush funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is awarded to habitat projects that bolster America’s interior. Many of these 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.
See a full list of fiscal year 2022 projects is available on our Sagebrush Conservation website.