Biden Administration Pledges $10.3 Million for Arizona’s Ecosystem Restoration, Bolstering Climate Resilience

Shannon EstenozSubmitted Image

TUCSON, AZ — The Biden-Harris administration has announced a $10.3 million investment in Arizona for locally-led, landscape-scale restoration projects. The announcement came from Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Shannon Estenoz, during her visit to Saguaro National Park on Wednesday, February 21, 2024.

This funding is part of the broader $157 million allocated through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which supports 206 ecosystem restoration projects across the country. To date, over $15.6 million has been invested in Arizona for similar projects.

During her visit, Estenoz toured various projects funded by President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, including the Sonoran Desert restoration project. This initiative aims to remove invasive buffelgrass, thereby protecting native vegetation and making the landscape more fire resilient. The project also provides employment opportunities for underserved and Tribal youth, who will be involved in buffelgrass removal during the winter months.

Another key initiative highlighted during Estenoz’s visit was a native seed project aimed at combating climate change and enhancing landscape resilience. The collection, production, and procurement of native seeds are critical for restoring native vegetation on public lands. Special facilities are required to store these seeds and safeguard their genetic diversity.

The newly launched National Seed Strategy Keystone Initiative will formalize the Department’s ambitious goals to invest in the infrastructure, tools, research, and labor needed for a robust native seed supply chain. This includes expanding Tribal greenhouse facilities, assisting local farmers in transitioning from high-water crops to low-water native plant crops, connecting underserved communities in native seed collection via the Seeds of Success program, and increasing regional seed production capacity.

These efforts form part of the Department of the Interior’s larger plan to invest $2 billion over five years in restoring the nation’s lands and waters. To guide these historic investments, the Department unveiled the Restoration and Resilience Framework in April 2023, designed to coordinate efforts and drive transformational outcomes across existing programs and initiatives. This work also supports President Biden’s America the Beautiful Initiative.

The projects funded by these investments will advance the three pillars of the Restoration and Resilience Framework: building climate resilience and addressing climate change impacts; restoring healthy lands and waters; and enhancing communities’ quality of life.

These projects will be conducted in partnerships with states, Tribes, and non-profit organizations, and will focus on improving wildfire and drought resilience, enhancing recreational access, reducing legacy pollution from formerly mined lands, managing invasive species, and restoring native plants and ecosystems.

This investment signals the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to combating climate change and enhancing America’s natural resilience. By focusing on local, landscape-scale restoration projects, they are not only preserving the country’s rich biodiversity but also creating jobs and strengthening communities. As such, this initiative represents a significant step towards a more sustainable and resilient future for America.

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