2017 has been a challenging year, especially for nature. But even in these uncertain times, there's a lot to celebrate. We've been busy all year long conserving the lands and waters in Utah that we all know and love. And though conservation is often a very slow process, we are proud of the progress that's been made. It's amazing what we are able to accomplish when we all work together, both with our partners and our wonderful volunteers.
To celebrate this progress, we want to share with you our top five conservation stories in 2017.
Cows mingle with the endangered autumn buttercups. © U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
For years, the decline of the autumn buttercup puzzled botanists. Then scientists found the solution with the help of an unlikely ally: cows!
“We’re now working with our partners to develop a long-term grazing plan for the preserve,” says the Conservancy's Central Canyonlands Program Manager, Linda Whitham. “It just goes to show that we still have a lot to learn about how, when and where nature will thrive—and the complicated role humans can play to the benefit, or detriment, of each species.”
Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve © Charles Uibel
There's no denying that the Great Salt Lake is one of Utah's most treasured ecological marvels. Now, with the launch of our new GPS-triggered audio tour at the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, we can share its wonders with even more people.
This new storytelling trip also takes you up an observation tower for a birds-eye view of the 4,440-acre preserve, recognized as internationally significant migratory bird habitat. Between four and six million birds visit, feed, and nest at the Lake and its wetlands every year, and you can see it all from their perspective.
Razorback sucker © USFWS
It’s hard for some to feel affection toward a cold-water aquatic organism, but for many people, the razorback sucker represents the very health and wonder of the Colorado River basin ecosystem.
For years, the razorback sucker was thought to be nearly extinct. But recently, fish biologists found existing razorback sucker larvae along the shoreline of the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve, offering newfound hope to those vying for the species’ survival.
This find brings renewed hope that with a little innovative engineering the preserve could become a place where these larvae would be protected from predation during that vulnerable part of their lifecycle. Once they are big enough, the fish would then be released back into the river, giving them a much better chance of survival and opportunity for recovery.
Artistic rendering of bat barn design © Architectural Nexus
After a colony of bats were excluded from their roost in the attic of a local business, the Conservancy teamed up with Architectural Nexus to design a new home for these misunderstood creatures.
With the specific needs of Utah’s bat species in mind, Architectural Nexus donated their time and expertise to the Conservancy to design a customized bat barn with enough space to comfortably hold large bat colonies and lure the evicted bats to better-suited habitat at the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve.
Though construction has been delayed, we get closer to making this bat barn a reality with every passing day.
Heidi and Matt Redd. © Ted Wood
Twenty years ago, the Conservancy worked with the Redd family to protect the Dugout Ranch. Our purchase of this spectacular landscape, spanning more than 350,000 acres in the heart of the Colorado Plateau, remains one of the Utah Chapter’s most significant accomplishments.
And though much has changed in twenty years with the introduction of the Canyonlands Research Center, the land remains cherished and protected, and the ranch is still intact and thriving.