The Watershed Restoration Initiative and Fire
Now entering its tenth year of completing landscape-scale projects in Utah, the purpose of WRI is to restore and improve watershed health in priority areas across the state. In 2014, with support of $3.95 million from the Utah Legislature, the WRI partnership (which included 91 partners) completed over 130 projects restoring 112,987 acres of uplands and 55 miles of stream and riparian areas. Since its inception, WRI partners have completed over 1,340 projects, treating over 1.15 million acres of habitat with an investment by all partners of over $130 million. Almost all terrestrial projects carried out by WRI reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in the long-term by restoring the structure and function of systems. Some projects focused on treating invasive species including cheatgrass, tamarisk and Russian Olive as well as Stage 3 encroached pinyon/juniper stands provide an immediate reduction in the risk of destructive fires. Many projects have as their goal to reintroduce beneficial fire into these systems. Higher elevation prescribed burns are used to regenerate aspen systems. Finally, WRI works with its federal and state partners to rehabilitate watersheds after wildfires to restore structure and function and reduce the risk of future uncontrolled fires.