Historic Summit County Ranch Preserved (UT)

SUMMIT COUNTY, UT, 2/5/2007 — The Trust for Public Land, Summit County, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the State of Utah announced today the permanent protection of 140 acres at OW Ranch. The ranch, located just east of Park City in Summit County, straddles a mile of the Weber River. The O’Brien family settled the land in the 1880’s, and have just placed a conservation easement over 140 acres to ensure it will never be subdivided or developed.

The family has restored their stretch of the Weber River, here recognized as a Blue Ribbon Fishery. Over thirty acres of cottonwood, birch, and willow on the ranch provide winter roosting for bald eagles. In addition to wildlife habitat, the ranch’s scenic and open space resources are enjoyed by thousands of people that pass by daily on Interstate 80 or the nearby Union Pacific Trail State Park.

“We are just about 15 miles from Park City, and have seen a lot of changes to the landscape around us in recent years,” said Ken O’Brien. “We want our ranch preserved the way it is – it’s a pretty place, and we have done a lot of work on it. We’d like to see it taken care of forever.”

“The landowners with whom we work are the key,” said Shauna Kerr, Director of The Trust for Public Land-Utah. “Ultimately, the choice to conserve is theirs. Without landowners like the O’Briens-people with a willingness to think creatively about how to use their assets to provide for their families and preserve their beautiful land-this work doesn’t go forward.”

Funding for the easement was generated through a partnership between Summit County and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, in addition to a donation by the landowner. Utah Senator Robert Bennett led efforts to fund FRPP last year while serving as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, and he remains in a key position as the Subcommittee’s senior Republican.

“OW Ranch is a spectacular piece of property,” said Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott. “This project is about preserving that landscape. It’s about enjoying the river corridor, and protecting habitat for eagles and other wildlife.”

“Growth is inevitable here in Utah, but as we grow we must do it in a responsible way, that allows for future generations to experience functional and productive landscapes,” said Utah State Conservationist State Conservationist Sylvia Gillen. “Connected landscapes support the history and the legacy of Utah agriculture as well as an amazing diversity of plants and animals.”

The O’Briens responded to growing development pressure by placing a conservation easement over their property, extinguishing in perpetuity some development rights and uses. Their family will continue to own and manage the land, and the surrounding community will enjoy the natural and cultural resources that agricultural open space provides.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization with a mission to conserve land for people. Since 1985, TPL has conserved nearly 45,000 acres of agricultural land, sites of cultural significance, trails, and community parks throughout Utah. Nationally, TPL has protected more than two million acres since 1972.