Federal Funds Help Oregon Groups Protect Threatened Species And Reforest!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing millions of dollars to Oregon’s protected fish, sage grouse, and forests that are recovering from wildfires.

Four groups working on conservation initiatives around the state were awarded $11 million by the EPA on August 18 to finish initiatives that will enhance water quality, fish migration, grouse habitat, and forest health. The organizations are among 41 throughout the country that was chosen to get cash.

The Portland-based nonprofit Sustainable Northwest, which will receive $5 million, will receive over half of the funds. The organization’s mission is to promote reforestation and wildfire recovery in areas of the Cascades that are still affected by the 2020 Labor Day fires.

Nearly $1.5 million will be given to the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District to remove dams and culverts in the Gale Creek Watershed that are obstructing salmon, steelhead, and lamprey migration and threatening their survival. The restoration of native plants and vegetation along stream banks will be funded in order to better shade fish and restore the water’s quality, which has been harmed by pesticide runoff and erosion.

Federal Funds Help Oregon Groups Protect Endangered Species And Reforest
Federal Funds Help Oregon Groups Protect Endangered Species And Reforest

The greater sage grouse is the largest grouse in North America, and it is being protected in Harney County by the regional Soil and Water Conservation District with more than $3 million.

The greater sage grouse inhabits 11 western states, and a study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that cattle grazing, wildfires, and exotic plant species have all contributed to a population drop of over 80% over the past 50 years. In the previous 20 years, the decline has been cut in half.

Since 2013, the conservation district of Harney County has been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to lessen the dangers of wildfires and invasive plants and grasses in the grouse habitat on private property. Since 2013, more than 70 landowners who control 580,000 acres of habitat for the greater sage-grouse have committed to cooperate with the regional conservation district and the federal organization to save the species.

More than $1 million will be given to the Deschutes River Conservancy to assist farmers and ranchers along McKay Creek in switching to irrigation methods that use less water. Northwest of Prineville, the creek runs for 37 miles from the Ochoco National Forest to the Crooked River.

Due to over-irrigation on farms and ranches in the late summer, a six-mile section of the river frequently dries up. Steelhead, salmon, and other species used to breed in this area, but water diversions and climate change have caused them to disappear from the creek. The conservation organization wants to boost the creek’s native fish populations.

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