Conservation Easements Benefit Communities
The Summit Land Conservancy celebrates the success of the land conservation agreement reached last weekend between Utah Open Lands and the Armstrong family.
The funding to preserve the 19-acre Snow Ranch Pastures came in with about a day to spare. It is successful closing triggered another land grant from long-time resident, Kerry Armstrong. Contingent on the closing of the Snow Ranch Pastures, she announced she would place a conservation easement on her 16-acre Red Barn parcel. Utah Open Lands.
Executive Director of the Summit Land Conservancy, Cheryl Fox says the work to conserve the properties in Thayne’s Canyon was a big success for final moments of the project.
“We were able to offer a matching grant so we could double some people’s money, late in the game. And, also to be able to reach out to our members and supporters who we know are supportive of land conservation here in Park City. Huge kudos to Utah Open Lands and Wendy Fisher. A huge thank you to the Armstrong families. And, also the City Council who agreed to come in and bring the finish line a little bit closer. Yeah, that’s a terrific piece of conservation.”
The recent conservation easement was placed on the Osguthorpe Farm on Old Ranch Road this spring. She says its cost effective way to preserve open space.
“So, for example, over in Wasatch County, both the Midway open space committee and the Wasatch Open Space Committee are desiring to use conservation easements. So, they don’t want town land. If you own land, then you have to take care of the weeds. And, you have to take care of the maintenance. And, you have to take care of the fences and it’s expensive.”
Fox says, it makes more sense to buy the development rights off the property.
“And, in both of these cases, both the Armstrong’s and the Osguthorpe’s have made significant multi-million-dollar gifts in order to make these conservation transactions possible.”
Fox says property owners who sell conservation easements are giving up equity on the land value that has accumulated through generations of ownership. They are walking away from real dollars by giving up that equity. The Osguthorpe and Snow Ranch land is flat and amenable to development. Fox says people need access to green spaces and development could be done in other places where density makes sense.
“Children, adults, all of us are more healthy if there are green spaces near our homes and where we live. How can we save green spaces and still have a vibrant community where people can actually live? I think we should look at redeveloping some properties. I think we should look at perhaps a little more density on some properties. Because that would allow us to accommodate our need, our real fundamental human need for green open spaces as well as making this community a place that is vibrant and livable.”
Fox says there is more land to preserve especially as the population grows and expands into eastern Summit County.
“You know, when we were doing Bonanza Flat, I think both Wendy and I knew were in discussions with the Armstrong’s and the Osguthorpe’s. So, we knew we weren’t done. I don’t think we are done. I think there are a couple of very important parcels that some of which people think are saved but maybe are not saved."
Fox believes stewardship opportunities exist in Park City and Summit County like the carbon sequestration work being done on the McPolin Farm.
She says the public value of open space goes beyond recreation access.
“So, you don’t necessarily have to have your own feet on somebody’s property to benefit from a local farm, from the carbon sequestration that happens there. From the wildlife that enjoys that property. There’s just a lot of other conservation values that benefit the public in addition to or besides actual recreation.”
NRCS-the Natural Resource Conservation Service is a conservation program funded through the federal farm bill. There’s an 800-acre property in Chalk Creek and a 90- acre property in Hennefer that will be preserved through Summit Land Conservancy. They’ve done several other conservation easements in Hennefer which add up to more than 200 acres.