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Local, Federal Groups Fund $3 Million For Arizona Grasslands Conservation

Arizona grassland
(Photo courtesy of Al Eiden - Arizona Game and Fish Department)
A group of pronghorn antelope moved into Arizona grassland a week after invasive junipers were removed.

Arizona’s grasslands lie northwest of Flagstaff and two-thirds of it have been impacted by drought, invasive species and wildfire. Now, $3 million is going directly to preserving the habitat for native species like mule deer and golden eagles.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture contributed half of that money, which will help the local game and fish department remove shrubs and juniper trees as well as preserve water supplies.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is one partner who’s pledged to match the USDA money, amounting to $3 million dollars for on-the-ground conservation projects for up to 30,000 acres.

Game and Fish Conservation Manager Al Eiden says Arizona grasslands are a critical habitat that are degrading at a fast rate.

"This is going to provide food for wildlife and food for cattle, and improve the landscape to the point where we’re hopefully making a positive impact on water,” he said.

He put together the proposal for the USDA conservation money because grasslands are critical for recharging groundwater supply.

“When you have a lot of trees out there sucking up the moisture coming down you end up with bare ground rather than heavy grass out there," Eiden said. "And then when rain comes down it hits the ground and runs off and doesn’t infiltrate into the groundwater.”

Eiden says the goal is to preserve reliable water sources for wildlife on up to 100,000 acres.

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Casey Kuhn reports from KJZZ’s West Valley Bureau. She comes to Phoenix from the Midwest, where she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.Kuhn got her start in radio reporting in college at the community public radio station, WFHB. She volunteered there as a reporter and worked her way up to host the half-hour, daily news show. After graduating, she became a multimedia reporter at Bloomington's NPR/PBS station WFIU/WTIU, where she reported for and produced a weekly statewide news television show.Since moving to the Southwest, she’s discovered a passion for reporting on rural issues, agriculture and the diverse people who make up her community.Kuhn was born and raised in Cincinnati, where her parents instilled in her a love of baseball, dogs and good German beer. You’ll most likely find her around the Valley with a glass of prosecco in one hand and a graphic novel in the other.She finds the most compelling stories come from KJZZ’s listeners.