BIL funding will benefit Stephens’ kangaroo rat and other species’ habitat in the California desert

Story by Julia Mogen, BLM California Desert District Public Affairs Specialist. Photos by James Gannon, Fuels Program Manager for the California Desert Interagency Fire Program.

The Department of the Interior recently announced a nearly $11 million dollar investment in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) funding for ecosystem restoration projects nationwide.

The funding supports 29 landscape-scale restoration initiatives spanning 18 states. Some of these projects are managed by the BLM California Desert District, aimed at rehabilitating delicate ecosystems on BLM-managed lands.

In fiscal year 2024, the investment will benefit ongoing Stephens’ kangaroo rat recovery actions and habitat management. The BLM and its partners have dedicated more than 30 years of conservation efforts for this threatened species in pursuit of increasing its population.

To mitigate the threat of habitat loss for the Stephens' kangaroo rat, the BLM collaborates with multiple agencies to manage the species’ habitat on public lands. This includes monitoring invasive plants, assessing unauthorized activities, and providing outreach and education.

In 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downlisted the Stephens’ kangaroo rat from an endangered species to a threatened species thanks to these efforts. The BLM and its partners continue to support the growth and well-being of the species.

Stephens' Kangaroo Rat eating something in a small hole
Stephens' kangaroo rat

“Investing in ecosystem resilience is important for all and this species plays a critical role through seed dispersal, building burrows that support other desert wildlife, and water percolation," said James Gannon, Fuels Program Manager for the California Desert Interagency Fire Program.

Stephens' Kangaroo Rat burrow in a field of dried grasses.
Burrow made by a Stephens' kangaroo rat

In January 2024, the Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency started monitoring the genetics of the Stephens’ kangaroo rat, a necessary step in the recovery identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. By tracking the DNA of the species, scientists can identify in-breeding and other issues that may arise when populations are isolated.

The BLM also conducts prescribed burns and fuel treatments in Stephens’ kangaroo rat habitat to remove non-native grasses, which is critical for allowing the rats to eat and breed without restriction.


Additional work to restore endangered species habitat at the watershed level began in late 2023. The Santa Ana River Wash Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) is crucial habitat for the endangered slender-horned spineflower and San Bernadino kangaroo rat. As of January 2024, approximately 200 acres have been treated in the Santa Ana River Wash for invasive weeds. Vegetation management and seeding activities are ongoing.

Communities in southern California also benefit from funding awarded by the BIL. On public lands surrounding the Santa Ana River Wash, there are opportunities for hiking, biking and horseback riding. The area is highly important for flood control and groundwater recharge in the region.

At this point, more than half a billion dollars from the BIL has been committed towards ecosystem restoration projects under the Biden-Harris Administration. These investments are monumental for BLM California as we address the impacts of climate change and drought in affected areas of southern California.

View the Department of the Interior’s full list of restoration projects nationwide. For more information about the BLM’s investments using the BIL, visit


Unleashing the Science graphic

This story is part of the “Unleashing the Science” series, showcasing how bureaus within the Department of the Interior produce and apply science to ensure responsible management decisions for our planet now and for the future. 

Julia Mogen

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