UTAH — Between July 2021 and June 2022, 164,064 acres of watersheds and habitats in Utah were restored or improved. 5,800 of those acres were in Summit County. All of the work was completed under the Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative (WRI), a multiagency effort consisting of federal, state, county, municipalities, and others amounting to over 59 partners.
The $31.9 million invested over the course of the year was invested by all the partners, including the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Habitat Council. The invested money can be used for enrichment, preservation, management, acquisition, and protection of habitat and improving fishing and hunting access. Part of the money comes directly from the purchasing of hunting and fishing licenses, permits, stamps, and registration certificates.
26,916 of the acres restored had been previously burned by wildfires. Fire is a normal part of an ecosystem, but for many reasons, wildfires can burn so hot that they scorch the ground deeper than a plant species can accommodate. The 666,756 pounds of seed that was mixed and spread across several landscapes, including those burned by fires, can give an ecosystem a much-needed jumpstart toward its recovery and replenish habitat where regrowth could not occur.
Many areas across the state have been hit hard by severe drought conditions over the past few years, making the already important watershed areas and those with streams present even more vital to the health of an ecosystem. 119 miles of stream restoration work was done using a variety of techniques, such as building artificial beaver dams used to decrease erosion, raise water levels and improve water quality.
“Because of Utah’s desert climate, these proactive projects to improve wildlife habitat and watershed health throughout the state are crucial,” WRI Program Director Tyler Thompson said. “We are especially grateful to the many funding partners who make this restoration work possible.”
Since the WRI was created in 2006, close to 2.4 million acres have improved as a result of 2,570 projects. Job creation has also been an important goal through the initiative, as an estimated 6,012 jobs have been created over the course of the initiative.