The State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and The Nature Conservancy (the Conservancy) recently closed on the fourth and final parcel in the White Dome area of St. George, Utah. The 296-acre parcel was purchased by the Conservancy for $860,000 for conservation of two federally listed plants: the endangered dwarf bear poppy and threatened Siler pincushion cactus.
The Conservancy funded this most recent purchase thanks to a $713,000 grant from the FWS as well as contributions from private supporters. The acquisition is the final step in an ambitious plan to create a new 800-acre preserve that may determine the fate of these two globally rare species. Located in the southern portion of fast-developing St. George, the White Dome Nature Preserve will provide an oasis for plants, animals, and people.
“The acquisition of White Dome is the culmination of a long term effort to preserve this unique area and its plant community,” said Larry Crist, Utah Field Supervisor with the FWS Utah Field Office. “This preserve is an investment in the future of Southern Utah for generations to come.”
In June of 2005, SITLA and the Conservancy entered into a Letter of Intent with various federal and state government agencies, including FWS, Utah Department of Transportation and the Bureau of Land Management, establishing the mutual goal of the land sale and creation of the nature preserve.
The Conservancy began acquisition for the White Dome Nature Preserve in May of 2007, and the first three acquisitions totaled approximately 351 acres for a total of $1,146,100. Utah Department of Transportation has also purchased land which will be managed as part of the preserve, bringing the total to approximately 800 acres. Plans are in the works for trails and interpretive signs, but the timeline for opening the preserve to the public is still to be determined.
“SITLA is proud to be part of an effort to preserve some of Utah’s most important natural areas and to develop the area in a way that helps St. George residents appreciate the native wonders of the desert,” said SITLA Director Kevin Carter. “Most importantly, these transactions allow SITLA to receive funds benefiting Utah’s public schools, while adding open space that will be protected and preserved.”
This diverse group of partners has worked together on a vision for the White Dome Nature Preserve, which will protect habitat for several at-risk animal species, including the zebra-tailed lizard and loggerhead shrike. The preserve will also harbor some of the last remaining populations of the threatened Siler pincushion cactus, and the endangered dwarf bear poppy — found in Washington County and nowhere else on earth.
“It’s exciting to see this vision completed,” said Elaine York, the Conservancy’s West Desert Regional Director. “With each purchase and partnership, we have been able to better protect this unique Mojave Desert habitat for the plants, animals, and people of Washington County.”
The Conservancy has been active in the balanced preservation of important natural areas in Washington County—and has been a private landowner and taxpayer in the County – for over 20 years. Key projects have included working with Brigham Young University to establish the Lytle Preserve in Beaver Dam Wash; active participation in the Desert Tortoise Habitat Conservation Plan process, which established the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve; acquisition of part of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve north of St. George; and support for both the Envision Dixie planning process and the passage of the Washington County Growth and Conservation Act.
SITLA is an independent state agency that manages 3.4 million acres of Utah trust lands for the benefit of Utah’s schools and other public institutions. Money generated from the school trust lands is deposited in the state Permanent School Fund, a perpetual endowment that annually distributes income to each K-12 public school in Utah.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the premier government agency dedicated to the conservation, protection, and enhancement of fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats. It is the only agency in the federal government whose primary responsibility is management of these important natural resources for the American public. The Service also helps ensure a healthy environment for people through its work benefiting wildlife, and by providing opportunities for Americans to enjoy the outdoors and our shared natural heritage.
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. In Utah, The Nature Conservancy has protected nearly 900,000 acres of at-risk habitat. Visit us on the web at nature.org/utah.
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.