The Utah Department of Natural Resources and its partners will soon begin restoring nearly 100,000 acres of land burned in 36 wildfires this year through Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative (WRI).
The currently approved restoration list does not include Utah’s most recent fires or those still actively burning, so the number of fires and acres approved for treatment is expected to increase as the wildfire season concludes.
“Fire season does not end once the flames are extinguished. There’s a lot of effort and collaboration with our partners that goes into restoring critical watersheds and wildlife habitat areas,” said Tyler Thompson, WRI program manager. “Healthy watersheds are necessary for how we manage natural resources in Utah. Wildfire restoration is one of the most important actions we can take to reduce future catastrophic wildfire, restore native vegetation and watershed functions, and increase habitat and forage for wildlife and agriculture.”
Work will begin immediately with cultural resource surveys, as well as seed purchasing and testing. Nearly 1.3 million pounds of seed will be used during the aerial and ground-based reseeding, which will begin in October and run through next year. The total cost of the projects is over $16.5 million. Funding for the reseeding habitat restoration projects comes from many state, federal and private sources, including the Utah State Legislature, Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Utah will be responsible for about one-third of the total cost.
Along with reseeding areas after wildfires, WRI also works to decrease catastrophic fires in Utah by implementing preemptive habitat projects that will help reduce fuel buildup. In 2020, there are over 100 projects that will be implemented to reduce fire fuel buildup on over 250,000 acres statewide.
To learn more about the individual projects, visit the WRI website.
WRI is a partnership-based program designed to improve high-priority watersheds throughout Utah. The program is in its 15th year and is coordinated by DNR. Since its inception in 2005, WRI partners have completed over 2,250 projects and treated nearly two million acres of upland, stream and riparian areas statewide with an investment by all partners of about $275 million. Over 40% of WRI’s project work over the life of the program involves wildfire restoration.