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Know the West

See the Western conservation projects getting Infrastructure Act money this year

Approximately $68 million will be delivered to more than 100 projects across the country — many of which are based in the West.

On May 12, the Biden administration announced that $68.4 million from Infrastructure Act funds were earmarked this year for conservation projects across the country, a majority of which are based in the Western United States. The money is the first installment of $1.4 billion allocated for ecosystem restoration efforts to be spent over five years. 

The funding will be dispersed across participating agencies including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.

 

“President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a once-in-a-generation investment that will allow us to restore healthy ecosystems across the country,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a statement. “This is a strong step towards building a better America for people and wildlife, for generations to come.”

According to a press release from the Department of the Interior, the conservation projects receiving funding this year will “boost local economies, advance environmental justice and serve disadvantaged communities.” One of the key efforts, a representative of the Interior Department said in an interview, is working with Indigenous nations and communities on building native seed-saving capacity, a fundamental aspect of successful restoration projects. 

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A community-run biomass-heated greenhouse in Nenana, Alaska. The project was a collaboration between the Nenana tribal office, Native corporation and city government. The infrastructure act will grant $800,000 to update and expand similar tribal greenhouses.
Brian Adams/High Country News
Along with today’s announcement, the department detailed a wide scope of projects, including how the money will be spent and where. The list is expansive and includes: $42,000 to eradicate tamarisk in Western Colorado; more than $100,000 to address 25 mine hazards at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Ajo, Arizona; $800,000 to expand tribal greenhouse facilities in Alaska; a half-million dollars for a Wyoming project to restore native seedlings in the Sagebrush Steppe.

The funds, set to go far and wide, were directed at projects that advanced a set of high priority projects for the department. For instance, building out a rapid response system to manage and address the current and future threat of invasive species. 

Sara Cuadra, watershed program coordinator with The Bay Foundation spreads native plant seeds as part of a dune restoration project near Zuma Lagoon, California.
Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Melbis Urrutia compiles collection of native wildflower seeds at a facility in Broomfield, Colorado. Many projects on the list will bolster native seed collection and distribution efforts.
Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

“President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a once-in-a-generation investment that will allow us to restore healthy ecosystems across the country.” 

In a statement, the Interior Department pointed towards a wide list of other priorities, including chronically under-resourced efforts to work through backlogged maintenance at national parks and popular recreation sites. The funds will also go towards wildfire risk reduction, as well as mitigating hazards from mining.

The island of Maui in Hawai’i will see the largest single investment, with over $12 million going to Haleakalā National Park. An outbreak of Avian Malaria, carried by non-native mosquitoes, has pushed the Honeycreeper, an endemic forest bird, to the brink of extinction. Only 17 species and 500 individual birds remain. The infrastructure funds will also be spent on captive breeding and a wide-scale effort to eradicate the flu-bearing mosquitos through “mosquito birth control” — a technique historically used to prevent mosquito borne human diseases like Zika. At Haleakalā, this will be the first time the technique will be used on birds.

See the spreadsheet below to explore all of the projects in the West that are receiving Infrastructure Act money this fiscal year:

Landusky Mine Site, Montana. The BLM will receive $574,000 for restoration of the site.
Katy Spence/Montana Environmental Information Center

Theo Whitcomb is an editorial intern at High Country News. Email him a [email protected] or submit a letter to the editorSee our letters to the editor policy.