The Milford Flat fire in 2007 was the largest wildfire ever in Utah, burning a vast 567 square miles. Now, efforts to restore and stabilize that area have won one of the nation's top conservation awards.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week gave a "Partners in Conservation" award to the private landowners, counties and state and federal agencies that have been working together on the rehabilitation.

"The Partners in Conservation Awards demonstrate that our greatest conservation legacies often emerge when stakeholders, agencies and citizens from a wide range of backgrounds come together to address shared challenges," Salazar said.

The groups in Utah found that stabilization and rehabilitation were needed on more than 300 square miles after the fire and have been working to plant nearly 1.8 million pounds of seed mix, at a cost of $17 million, according to a brochure about their effort.

The group is also treating noxious-weed infestation, replacing 74 miles of burned fence, building 78 miles of new fence and developing 315 sediment basins.

The brochure said the implementation team includes private landowners, county commissioners and representatives from every entity in the Utah Partners for Conservation and Development.

Members of that group range from many state agencies overseeing public lands and agriculture to Utah State University, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Salazar awarded 26 separate Partners in Conservation Awards last week. Some Utah state water agencies shared with several states and federal agencies in another of the awards, for developing new management guidelines for the Colorado River in 2007.

Comment on this story

"In the midst of the worst drought in more than a century, they formed an agreement that promises a future of cooperation in the Colorado River Basin for the next two decades," Salazar said.

Another award went to an effort to improve water conservation among irrigation districts in Oregon and Idaho that happens to be named in honor of a former Utahn, the John W. Keys III Partnership Program.

Keys was a former commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation who lived in Moab. He was killed in a single-engine plane crash a year ago in Canyonlands National Park. Much of his career was spent in the Northwest, where the conservation program was named in his honor.