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On February 22nd, the Interior Department announced $10.3 million in new funding for ecological restoration and conservation projects across federal lands in Arizona.

The projects aim to counteract the effects of climate change through nature-based solutions.

The funding will support efforts to reintroduce native frog species, improve wildfire management using scientific insights, mitigate abandoned mine hazards, and aid post-fire rehabilitation.

“The impacts of the climate crisis could not be more evident here and across the state,” said Assistant Interior Secretary Shannon Estenoz at Saguaro National Park, citing harsher heatwaves, intensified wildfires, and drought. “Investing in our landscapes and expanding nature-based solutions are critical.”

A centerpiece of the newly funded efforts focuses on eradicating invasive bullfrogs that endanger native frog populations and re-establishing species like the Chiricahua leopard frog, Northern Mexican garter snake, and Arizona toad. Over $800,000 has been directed towards collaborations with conservation groups and researchers to enable carefully planned reintroductions this year.

Additionally, a new federal fire ecologist position will serve multiple southern Arizona parks, driving science-based decision making for proactive landscape management against destructive fires. More than $180,000 is also slated for installing protective gates and barriers around hazardous abandoned mines in Saguaro National Park.

The package provides almost $1 million for regional native seed harvesting and storage as well. Stockpiling seeds aims to promote ecosystem recovery after inevitable wildfires crisscross the landscape.

While specific spending breakdowns are still forthcoming, over $15 million has now been earmarked for Arizona through these Interior programs enacted under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. Secretary Estenoz praised the “transformational investment” as empowering locally-led, partnership-driven conservation that serves as our best ally combating climate change.

Cover photo courtesy of: Robert Shea

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