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Reclamation Announces $1.4 Million for Applied Science Projects to Support Desert and Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperatives

Reclamation announces 12 projects will receive a total of $1.4 million to develop applied science tools in support of the Desert and Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperatives. Through cost-share agreements, this funding will be used to support $3.13 million for the development of resource management tools to assist LCC stakeholders.

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Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor announced 12 projects will receive a total of $1.4 million to develop applied science tools in support of the Desert and Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperatives. Through cost-share agreements, this funding will be used to support $3.13 million for the development of resource management tools to assist LCC stakeholders.

“Landscape Conservation Cooperatives are a network of public-private partnerships that improve management of the nation’s natural resources to make them more resilient to projected impacts of climate change,” said Commissioner Connor. “These projects provide specific tools that can be used by resource managers making on-the-ground management decisions that help ensure landscape sustainability.”

Funding was made available through the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART Initiative. Six research projects were selected to receive funding within the Desert LCC:

Sky Island Alliance will develop science and conservation-based guidance to assist natural resource managers in responding to expected climate change and other stressors on springs ecosystems in sky island regions of the Desert LCC. The project will result in publication of an Arizona Springs Restoration Handbook, which will aid managers in directing limited resources to preserve these key water resources and species that depend on them. ($127,407)

Northern Arizona University will build upon the U.S. Forest Service Four Forest Restoration Initiative in Northern Arizona to investigate how restoration efforts can affect the water volume available in the snowpack and soil moisture in the Desert LCC. This project will result in a tool that can be used to predict the water volume in snowpack and soil moisture response to various forest treatments. ($149,866)

Southern Nevada Water Authority will add new modeling and analytical capabilities to tools developed as part of a previous WaterSMART Climate Analysis Tools Grant that assessed impacts of climate change on water quality and sediment transport in Lake Mead. Project results are intended to increase an understanding of how water quality characteristics and nutrient levels in Lake Mead may be affected by climate change. ($149,961)

Texas Tech University will conduct quantitative and predictive analysis of the connectivity of isolated desert “wetlands” that include tinajas – the name for eroded pools in bedrock – for 20 wildlife species over the Sonoran desert ecoregion. Potential loss of wetlands due to climate change will also be studied to identify high value areas that can be prioritized for future restoration efforts and targeted for better management practices. ($85,424)

Museum of Northern Arizona, Inc. will leverage tools previously developed by the Springs Stewardship Initiative to help resource managers in the southwestern U.S. collect, analyze, report upon, monitor and archive the complex and interrelated information associated with springs and spring-dependent species in the region. The information will be compiled and made readily available online. The Museum will further develop interactive online maps and climate change risk assessment tools of springs-dependent sensitive plant and animal species. ($149,839)

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hydrologic Engineering Center will work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey to develop new operational rules for water managers to guide reservoir releases to promote the establishment of native cottonwood and willow stands downstream of reservoirs while balancing other water management needs. Once completed, project benefits will be transferable to other managed river systems in the arid southwest. ($95,000)

Six projects were selected to receive funding within the Southern Rockies LCC:

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research will improve data collection and modeling of snowpack conditions to increase the accuracy of seasonal streamflow forecasts that inform water management decisions in the Upper Rio Grande Basin. This project will leverage new measurement and modeling techniques that are now available which can improve both the initial estimates of hydrologic conditions in river basins prior to snowmelt as well as time-evolving conditions occurring during the melt season. ($81,982)

The Nature Conservancy will assess the importance of tributary junctions along the Colorado and Dolores Rivers for maintaining riparian and aquatic habitat as lower peak flows reduce areas of complex habitat on the mainstem reaches. This will build on the Colorado River Basin Study to better understand how flow management at major reservoirs relates to the health of riparian vegetation and fish species along the Colorado River. ($128,374)

Conservation Biology Institute will create a Southern Rockies LCC Conservation Planning Atlas, adding to the network of existing LCC Atlases at This web-based tool will facilitate conservation planning and inform management decisions related to riparian and wetland species and climate change. ($35,000)

Utah State University will leverage past research efforts by the Wasatch Range Metropolitan Area to produce a climate information resource for local water managers in support of planning for future climate variability. Most climate analysis to date has focused on projecting what conditions will look like in 20-50 years. This project will look ahead only 10-15 years. This information will help water managers better use climate change information to make current water management decisions. For example, local managers could use this information to answer questions such as how to operate a reservoir this year in order to save enough water to deal with drought conditions expected in the next few years. ($147,495)

U.S Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station will develop an interactive guide for future efforts to assess the vulnerability of riparian dependent species and habitats to climate change with specific emphasis on the Colorado and Rio Grande Basins. The interactive tool will assist resource managers identify previous vulnerability assessments, reduce duplication of efforts and improve future assessments. ($40,176)

U.S. Department of Agriculture Valles Caldera National Preserve will assess how forest restoration actions (thinning and prescribed burning) and climate change impact the hydrologic functions of watersheds, providing valuable information on forest ecology and watershed management. The project will focus on the Jemez Mountains in northern New Mexico. It will build upon research needs previously identified by the Nature Conservancy, to determine the extent of thinning needed, to quantify potential increases in water yield as a result of large scale restoration treatments, and to determine the costs of wildfires and any offsets from “new water” produced. ($92,160)

You can learn more about these projects at

Reclamation sought proposals through a funding opportunity announcement from non-federal entities. Funding for each project is limited to $150,000 and requesting entities must provide at least a 50-percent cost-share. Entities eligible to receive funding include: states, tribes, irrigation districts, water districts, universities, nonprofit research institutions, organizations with water or power delivery authority and nonprofit organizations. Reclamation also sought statements of interest from federal entities to develop a partnership of science projects in both LCCs. One project was selected from the statement of interest in the Desert LCC while two projects were selected through the statement of interest process in the Southern Rockies LCC.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also provided $65,000 to support one project.

LCCs are partnerships of governmental (federal, state, tribal and local) and non-governmental entities. The primary goal of the LCCs is to bring together science and resource management to inform adaptation strategies to address climate change and other stressors within an ecological region defined as a landscape. There are 22 different LCCs across the United States, territories and other countries.

The Desert LCC encompasses portions of five states: Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas, as well as a substantial portion of Northern Mexico. The area is topographically complex, including three different deserts (Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahuan), grasslands and valley bottoms, and the isolated mountain ranges in the southern portion of the LCC (Apache Highlands and the New Mexico-Texas Highlands, also known as the Sky Islands). There are several large river systems, including the lower Colorado, Gila, Rio Grande, San Pedro and Verde. To learn more about the Desert LCC, please visit

The Southern Rockies LCC encompasses large portions of four states: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, as well as smaller parts of Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming. The area is geographically complex, including wide elevation and topographic variation; from 14,000 foot peaks to the Grand Canyon and cold desert basins. This topographically complex region includes the headwaters of the Colorado River and Rio Grande, the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains to the west, and the Southern Rocky Mountains to the east, separated by the rugged tableland of the Colorado Plateau. To learn more about the Southern Rockies LCC, please visit

Interior established its WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America's Resources for Tomorrow) Initiative in February 2010 to facilitate the work of Interior's bureaus in pursuing a sustainable water supply for the nation. Funding for WaterSMART is focused on improving water conservation and helping water and resource managers make wise decisions about water use.

To learn more about WaterSMART, please visit

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