Preserving and protecting Utah's fish and wildlife habitats
All wildlife have three basic needs: food, water and shelter. Wildlife habitats are areas across the landscape that fulfill those basic needs. Each species requires different habitat characteristics to survive, reproduce and thrive.
Unfortunately, there are many threats that impact wildlife habitats — and the larger, interrelated ecosystems of which they are a part — and these challenges become more complex every year. Fish and wildlife habitats are jeopardized by:
- Habitat degradation
- Invasive species
- Disruption of ecosystem processes
- Loss of habitat
Along with conservation partners, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources works to minimize damages and threats to ecosystems. We also improve, restore and acquire habitat areas so that wildlife can maintain healthy populations. The Wildlife Habitat Account — more commonly known as the Habitat Council — is one of the major funding mechanisms for supporting habitat improvement projects in Utah.
Funding habitat improvement
In 1995, the Utah Legislature created the Wildlife Habitat Account, which is funded by a portion of revenue from license, permit, stamp and certificate of registration fees related to hunting and fishing. Money deposited into this account can be used for the enhancement, preservation, management, acquisition and protection of fish and wildlife habitat, and for improving hunting and fishing access.
For more information about the Habitat Council's mission and funding, see Utah State Code: 3-19-43, and 23-17-47
Habitat Council projects
Between 2006 and 2021, the Habitat Council program allocated $37.6 million to complete 1,323 wildlife habitat projects at DWR wildlife management areas and waterfowl management areas, as well as on federal, state and private lands and waterways. Those funds were further leveraged with public and private partnership contributions at a nearly 1-to-4 ratio.
Collectively, these projects have resulted in significant habitat protection in Utah, including:
- Improving over 282,558 acres of terrestrial habitat
- Restoring 1,833 miles of streams and rivers
- Acquiring 28,358 acres of land and waterways now managed by the state or placed under permanent conservation easements
There is still much work to be done to ensure healthy ecosystems for Utah's fish and wildlife. Each year, the Habitat Council reviews dozens of new proposals for projects that address threats to wildlife habitats. Projects are proposed and evaluated through the Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative database, a centralized portal for funding and tracking the completion of habitat-related projects for the Habitat Council and other conservation partners.
Click or tap the image below to view a slideshow of recent projects.
What is the Habitat Council?
The Habitat Council consists of eight individual members who act as an advisory board for the Wildlife Habitat Account. Members include four public representatives and four DWR or Department of Natural Resources employees. Citizen members are appointed to a two-year term by the DWR Director, with a possible extension for an additional term. Each of the public members represents a specific habitat interest:
- Big game
- Upland game
The purposes of the Habitat Council are:
- To provide recommendations to the DWR regarding the expenditure of Wildlife Habitat Account funds.
- To identify the most effective methods of protecting, preserving and enhancing important wildlife habitat in the state.
- To recommend the most appropriate means of providing access to hunting and fishing opportunities.
- To seek out ways to maximize DWR revenue available for Wildlife Habitat Account programs through fund matching, partnerships, etc.
- To review habitat management planning functions for DWR lands (WMAs).
- To encourage biological diversity and ecosystem-based management.
- To evaluate external conservation permit habitat project proposals not reviewed by Utah's Watershed Restoration Initiative.
Habitat Council meetings archive
Download the Habitat Council Handbook
Joining the Habitat Council
If you're interested in joining the council, contact the DWR Habitat Section Chief, a council member or a regional DWR Habitat Section employee.