Boulder Utah Cottonwoods and sagebrush along Highway 12 in Boulder, Utah © John Buie

Stories in Utah

Community Conservation in Boulder

Protecting Habitat and Traditions in Rural Utah

The town of Boulder, and the natural area surrounding it, is undeniably special.  Tucked in a fertile valley at the foot of Boulder Mountain and adjacent to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, it is a gateway to some of our state’s most spectacular landscapes. Beyond stunning scenery, the region features important aquatic and riparian habitat for a wealth of wildlife, as well as supporting rich and productive agricultural soils. Today, the small pastoral community of Boulder is a quickly-closing window into Utah’s agricultural past.

Momentum is now building to protect these natural assets before they are forever lost. Boulder residents are engaging with partners like The Nature Conservancy and public agencies such as the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to preserve the region’s biological and rural character.  From the protection of at-risk wildlife habitat, to securing priceless viewsheds and preserving open spaces, Boulder’s collaborative community conservation efforts have the potential to save this precious slice of historic Utah.

The Nature Conservancy’s Role

The Boulder region, with its critical watersheds and combination of low and high elevation streams, ranks as an important focus area for the Conservancy. Boulder’s riparian areas support a wealth of neotropical migratory birds, while the creeks provide habitat for rare fish and invertebrate species. Canyons provide suitable habitat for the Mexican spotted owl and peregrine falcon, and also serve as migratory corridors for elk, black bear and mountain lions.

The Conservancy is excited by the growing energy behind community conservation in Boulder.  Our goals are to protect rare fish habitat and remove damaging invasive species from at-risk riparian areas. With limited resources, we will undertake strategic conservation actions on select properties, but we also hope to work more broadly as a partner and resource for the Boulder community as it moves forward with its own planning for balanced growth and conservation.  Together with residents, landowners, agency partners and other conservation groups, the Conservancy is pleased to support efforts to ensure that Boulder remains a special place for future generations.

Protection Projects in Boulder

Conservation Easement - Boulder Creek Canyon Ranch: Boulder Creek Canyon Ranch’s 298 acres encompass a ribbon of Boulder Creek flowing through a range of wildlife habitat, including important riparian areas. Through a conservation easement held by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF), the ranch can continue to graze cattle in a responsible manner and grow crops while improving water quality in the creek. The Conservancy, UDAF and the Natural Resources Conservation Service are working to establish a long-term farm protection and management plan, which will include restoring riparian areas, removing invasive weeds and improving soil conditions.   
Conservation Easements - Deer Creek
:  Six property owners have donated conservation easements to protect 400 acres of land just east of Boulder, adjacent to both the Dixie National Forest and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The properties contain healthy riparian areas along Nazer Draw and Deer Creek, which serve as important habitat for neotropical migratory birds, native fish, and large mammals such as mountain lions and black bears. Wet meadows also provide suitable habitat for the Ute's ladies-tresses, a rare, native orchid. Thanks to these generous landowners, this critical land will remain undeveloped and will be managed in a way that enhances ecological values.

Next Steps

Community-Based Conservation: help with the creation of a local land trust capable of protecting properties with voluntary easements, and support Boulder community’s interest in balanced growth planning.

Sound Science: obtain important ecological data and species inventories.

Public Lands Collaboration: share information with the Bureau of Land Management and USDA Forest Service as they manage the extensive federal lands near Boulder.

Restoration and Improvement: partner with Garfield County and others to remove invasive species such as Russian olive and tamarisk, maintain and work to combat erosion on key riparian areas.

Restoring the Escalante People are banding together to restore and protect the Escalante.