Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Utah Quality Growth Commission Award Funds to protect critical open space (UT)
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah: The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has awarded $100,000—the first major gift of private funds—to protect Peaceful Valley Ranch, a historically and environmentally significant property located in East Canyon. The Utah Quality Growth Commission has allocated public funds of $750,000 to the effort from the LeRay McAllister Critical Land Conservation Fund. Another $810,000 must be raised by June 1, 2000, to prevent development of the ranch and to permanently protect its numerous agricultural, historic, wildlife, and scenic values.
“We are in the most critical and last stages of this fundraising effort,” stated Des Barker, Utah Open Lands board member. “Private foundations, corporations, and individuals must come through now with the $810,000 needed to match the public donations or this unique part of Utah’s heritage will be developed and gone forever,” Barker stated emphatically.
Peaceful Valley Ranch is located in a vital watershed area known as East Canyon. Protection of six miles of East Canyon Creek will greatly benefit water quality and fish and wildlife demands on this important water resource. Hundreds of migratory elk depend on the ranch at various times of the year. The ranch also contains significant habitat for mule deer, moose, mountain lions, bobcats, song birds, bald eagles, golden eagles, sandhill cranes, blue heron, great horned owls, the American kestrel, and numerous other interesting and important wildlife species.
In addition, protection of the property will safeguard a six-mile portion of the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, portions of the Donner-Reed, the California Overland Stage, andthe Pony Express trails, as well as a historic farmhouse and a restored Pony Express station.
“This project is the embodiment, in my mind, of the ethic that needs to capture all of us,” said Governor Leavitt at a site visit to the ranch. Recognizing the magnitude of the fundraising effort, he noted, “We get one chance at this. If this generation does not step up, future generations will judge us harshly, and they should.”
“Peaceful Valley Ranch is a priority project for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in Utah,” said Bill Christensen, the foundation’s Utah field director. “Working with the landowners has been one of the most satisfying experiences in my career in wildlife conservation. This is a great example of private-public partnerships working to conserve wildlife habitat and open space in our state,” stated Christensen.
Peaceful Valley Ranch is being protected in two phases, through two conservation easements to be held by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, through its Forest Legacy Program. The easements are valued at $6.4 million, but the landowners are making them available to the state at a price of $2.5 million.
In June 1999, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, helped the state acquire the first easement, which overlies 1,790 acres of the most forested portion of the 7,300-acre ranch. TPL is now facilitating the transfer of the second easement—which will overlie the remaining 5,510 acres—and is partnering with the statewide land trust, Utah Open Lands, to raise the funds needed for the purchase. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation took the lead on negotiating the terms of the second easement.
“The landowners’ generosity and dedication—and the hard work of many people—have created this opportunity,” said TPL project manager Deb Frey. “The recent awards from the state Quality Growth Commission and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have put success within our reach. But we urgently need others to come forward now and support this effort if we are going to save this important open space.”
Additional project supporters include the following organizations and agencies: Historic Trails Foundation; National Park Service, Long Distance Trails Office; State of Utah, Department of Natural Resources (Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands; Division of Wildlife Resources; Division of Parks and Recreation; Division of Water Resources; Division of Water Quality); Trout Unlimited.
More information about the ranch is available by calling TPL at 800-950-5922; Des Barker at 801-521-2585; or Utah Open Lands at 801-463-6156; or by visiting www.savetheranch.com. Donations to the effort can be made directly at www.tpl.org/SaveRanch.