Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Thursday that his department will spend $641,000 in economic stimulus money in Utah to protect against wildfires by reducing hazardous fuel buildup on public lands.

Salazar said that is part of $15 million that Interior is spending nationwide on such projects.

"This investment will create jobs in rural communities in 12 states, boost the department's hazardous fuel reduction activities and generate biomass for use in wood products or power generation," he said.

"We will create local jobs on both the front and back ends of this initiative, while reducing threats to homes, businesses and schools and restoring healthy landscapes," he added.

The Interior Department said the money it will spend in Utah will be for the Desert Reserve Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) fuel break; the Low Hills Sage Antimony WUI hazardous fuel reduction project; and the Columbia WUI hazardous fuel reduction project.

Salazar said projects were chosen based on the need to protect nearby communities, ability to generate the large number of jobs in the shortest time, and ability create a lasting value.

— Lee Davidson