Castle Valley Ranch Added to Dixie National Forest

August 9, 2011
Iron County, Utah

A cattle ranch slated for being chopped into 20-acre lots will instead be protected and added to the Dixie National Forest, The Trust for Public Land announced today.

The 665-acre Castle Valley Ranch, next to state highway 143 east of Brian Head, had been family-owned for more than a century, but the family was forced to sell it two years ago because of economic hardship. A developer bought it, planning to turn it into 20-acre cabin lots.

But instead, the developer sold to The Trust for Public Land the chance to keep the land intact until TPL could find the money to protect the whole property.

"We needed to act quickly to make sure this outstanding property was not subdivided and retain the integrity of this landscape," said Michael Patrick, TPL's Project Manager. "We are thankful to the local ranching family that kept this property intact for more than a century, and to the Utah congressional delegation for supporting federal funding for the effort."

The Forest Service bought 560 acres, using $2.46 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the federal government's main pot of money for land conservation. The LWCF comes from some of the revenue paid by oil companies to lease federal offshore oil and gas lands. TPL will hold the remaining 105 acres until the Forest Service can buy it.

"This beautiful area is next to Highway 143—which, at the urging of local elected officials—was recently designated as a National Scenic Byway. I'm pleased that this willing buyer-willing seller transaction will preserve this part of the landscape and its wildlife for the enjoyment of Utah residents and visitors now and in the future," said U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah.

Protecting the ranch was a high priority for the Forest Service because it completely encircled by Forest Service land and turning the property into 20-acre parcels would have caused management problems. Development could have also lowered water quality and caused the invasion of non-native species.

"The Castle Valley acquisition will bring valuable wildlife habitat under public ownership," said Rob MacWhorter, Dixie Forest Supervisor. "The wetlands and stream sections on the property support both big game and non-game populations of trout, frogs, and salamanders. This acquisition will benefit this generation as well as future generations of forest users."

The ranch is near the Cedar Breaks National Monument, which has 500,000 visitors a year, and is eight miles from the Brian Head Ski Resort and Panguitch Lake. In addition, Cedar City, 37 miles away, has recently grown, partly due to scenery and outdoor recreation.

The ranch has meadows, ponds and wetlands, along with aspen, spruce and pine trees. A creek runs into Panguitch Lake, and in the spring, melting snow creates ponds, providing a home for ducks and water for deer and elk. The upper meadow has a spring, used by an elk herd in summer.

TPL is also protecting another nearby property, the 1,400-acre Dry Lakes Ranch. TPL will buy a conservation easement, blocking development yet allowing the family owners to keep working the land. "This part of Utah is blessed with both some amazing lands and a strong conservation ethic held by the landowners that we are partners with," said Patrick. "It is an extraordinary place in which to do land conservation."

TPL is a national land conservation organization dedicated to conserving land for people as parks, greenways, and wilderness areas. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations.