This December The Nature Conservancy is celebrating its 25th year of conservation work in Utah. In 1984, with the purchase of 1,192 acres of wetlands at the Great Salt Lake, the Conservancy established its first preserve in this state. Twenty-five years later, the Conservancy has protected more than 960,000 acres of public and private land statewide, completed 187 land and water protection projects, and raised an unprecedented $102 million in public and private funds for conservation.
“It’s been a remarkable journey so far,” said Dave Livermore, the Utah State Director who started the Conservancy’s program in Utah. “Our accomplishments have been greater than I could have imagined, and they have been possible thanks to our partnerships with numerous state and federal agencies and the support of many Utahns who care about the future of our great state.”
The Conservancy’s Most Recent Project Protects Land Near Zion National Park
Late this year, the Conservancy completed its 187th land protection project in Utah, securing conservation easements on four ranch properties on the Kolob Plateau and protecting 2,700 acres adjacent to Zion National Park. The project involved a collaboration between the Conservancy and ranchers from the Kanarra Mountain Landowners Association as well as the USDA Forest Legacy Program and the Utah Division of State Lands & Forestry.
An area steeped in pioneer history, Kanarra Mountain has supported sheep and cattle grazing, and a rural way of life, for more than 100 years. Many of the area’s ranchers own and work the same land settled by their relatives at the turn of the century. Today these landowners are trying to ensure that the area remains intact for their grandchildren as well. Under the conservation easements, the ranchers will retain ownership, but agree to maintain the land in a way that safeguards its natural values and prevents development.
The protected properties are rich with aspen and oak forests, at-risk fish species, black bear, cougar and abundant raptor species. Recently these properties have also provided attractive habitat for the endangered California condor. A key watershed, the Kanarra Mountain area supports the headwaters of LaVerkin, Spring and Kanarra Creeks, which are major tributaries to the Virgin River.
A Look Back at 25 Years: Many Conservation “Firsts” in Utah
In a variety of ways, the Conservancy’s Utah chapter has navigated uncharted territory, protecting special landscapes with cutting-edge conservation strategies. The Conservancy is actually responsible for many conservation “firsts” in our state—including several for the organization as a whole. Here is a glimpse:
For more details on these and other conservation “firsts” in Utah, see the “Conservation Highlights” Fact Sheet below.
According to Dave Livermore, the Conservancy’s Utah State Director: “In the Great Basin, where funds for conservation have often been as scarce as the region’s limited rainfall, the Conservancy has had to work creatively and come up with unusual solutions to address complicated conservation challenges.
” One example is the Deep Creek Basin, a 3,200-acre “in-holding” in the heart of the Deep Creek Mountains just south of Wendover, which is home to bighorn sheep and numerous rare plant and animal species. In 1989, the Conservancy helped broker Utah’s first three-way land exchange with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), where the sale of surplus BLM lands suitable for development in Washington County funded the preservation of Deep Creek Basin. These types of land exchanges have become a valuable and effective tool for critical lands protection throughout the West.
“The results speak for themselves,” said Norma Matheson, former First Lady of Utah. “Here in Utah, the Conservancy has achieved so much because they consistently think and work outside of the box—they look for new and unusual partners and find common ground on tough issues. If you want a glimpse of the future of conservation in Utah or anywhere else…watch The Nature Conservancy.”
The Conservancy’s staff and trustees are now finalizing a new strategic plan and gearing up to preserve even more of Utah’s natural heritage. “Our state stands at a crossroads,” said Livermore. “Pressures on our watersheds, air and critical lands are mounting, and prolonged droughts and hotter temperatures are already compromising both human and natural communities.”
Looking to the future, three major focus areas for the Conservancy include 1) protecting and restoring critical watersheds statewide, including the Colorado, Bear and Virgin; 2) developing and sharing new science to enhance stewardship on our public lands; 3) launching a major climate change research initiative at the Dugout Ranch on the Colorado Plateau.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.