by Jeniffer Solis, Nevada Current
June 7, 2023
The Bureau of Land Management has allocated $12 million to perform habitat restoration work across two swaths of Nevada as part of the Biden administration’s broader multibillion-dollar nationwide conservation spending campaign.
In Nevada, BLM will spend $6 million on the Montana Mountains in northwest Nevada, and $6 million on the Humboldt O’Neil Basin landscape. That money is part of a total $161 million spread across 21 BLM landscape projects in 11 Western states. The agency manages more than 245 million acres of public lands across 12 western states.
Federal land managers called the Inflation Reduction Act funds a “once in a lifetime” investment. The BLM has already invested about $40 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law on ecosystem restoration. The U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees BLM, has initiated more than $2 billion on land and water conservation under the America the Beautiful initiative.
“The pressures on our public lands – from invasive species, unprecedented wildfires, drought and increasing use – are being exacerbated by the climate crisis, degrading landscapes and impacting public uses. If we are going to ensure America’s public lands are available to everyone, we must invest in their health,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “Through the President’s Investing in America agenda, we will increase the ability of public lands to provide clean water, habitat for fish and wildlife, opportunities for recreation, and other important benefits.”
In total, about 8 million acres of Nevada lands and waterways will benefit from the infusion of federal funding. About 48 million acres of Nevada is BLM land.
Fire and drought brought on by climate change is threatening to permanently degrade the Montana Mountains in northwest Nevada, according to the BLM. The mountains surround the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, an oasis in the high desert of the Great Basin.
The landscape is also facing growing threats from industrial development. Canada-based mining company Lithium Americas Corporation is in the process of developing a mine at Thacker Pass, between the Double H Mountains and the Montana Mountains near the Nevada-Oregon border.
A core sage-steppe habitat in Nevada, the Montana Mountains are home to pronghorn antelope, mule deer, greater sage-grouse, pygmy rabbit, and other species that rely on sagebrush.
According to federal land managers, the funding will largely focus on aquatic restoration of the area’s perennial springs that sustain life in the desert. Restored riparian areas – bands of green in the desert – will be key to the future of this critical ecosystem, according to BLM.
The second Nevada landscape targeted with funding is the Humboldt O’Neil Basin. The landscape expands into Southern Idaho, giving the investment the benefit of trans-state partnerships and the ability to build on past collaborative restoration efforts.
Humboldt O’Neil Basin is home to perennial waterflow vital to the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout, which has suffered continued population decline.
The Lahontan cutthroat trout population living in the North Fork of the Humboldt River, in the Humboldt O’Neil Basin, have seen their habitat polluted by gold mining activities which has degraded water quality and pelted the fish with toxic chemicals, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Study. Mining near the North Fork of the Humboldt River has also lowered groundwater levels in the basin due to water removal for construction, severely impacting the trout population.
Perennial waters in the landscape support critical habitat and movement corridors for pronghorn antelope and mule deer. Upland sage-steppe also hosts the highest densities of breeding sage-grouse, which share habitat with pygmy rabbits and other sagebrush-obligate species.
“With today’s investment, we will be able to pass these lands to future generations in better shape than we find them today,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “We’re thrilled to be able to put people to work to benefit wildlife habitat, clean water and the overall health and productivity of our public lands.”
Federal land managers said the 21 BLM landscape projects is part of the Interior’s strategy of focusing funding on specific landscapes over the long term.
“We looked for places where investment could create real outcomes,” said Tomer Hasson, a senior policy analyst with Interior.
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