The Summit Land Conservancy recently closed on two properties as part of its Weber River Watershed Initiative. KPCW’s Emily Means has more.
The 44-acre Stephens Ranch in Henefer and an 82-acre ranch property in Wanship are the latest conservation easements established by the Summit Land Conservancy. Both were initiated by a 2016 federal grant. Conservancy Executive Director Cheryl Fox says these parcels add to a patchwork of conservation easements the organization has been creating along the Weber River.
"We started working on the Weber River with one project in 2009 in Henefer, and it was 44 acres, and people thought, wow that’s kind of far away, what are you doing? You build a quilt one patch at a time, you cross a river one stepping stone at a time," Fox said. "So, that was the first, and then we got more and more. And the one in Wanship is just one parcel down from another piece that we conserved in 2011, so we’re starting to build swaths of property along the Weber River that have been protected."
Fox says preserving these river-adjacent properties will also help Summit County maintain the quality of the Weber and Provo Rivers, protecting the watershed for residents on the Wasatch Front.
"One of the best things you can do is to keep development back off and away from the river, because development comes with pavement, and people spill things," Fox said. "And as water or rain hits the pavement and it runs into the river, it moves faster, so that makes more turbidity, and then the water quality is diminished. So, that makes it more expensive downstream when people need to drink it."
Meanwhile, the deadline for the Osguthorpe Farm purchase is fast approaching. The Conservancy still needs $1.6 million to purchase the farm. Summit County Manager Tom Fisher says there’s a chance the county could pony up more funds.
"We’re in discussions with them still about winter recreation and solidifying that concept, in order to contribute some more from the bond funds through Basin Rec," Fisher said. "So, beyond that the rest of it it’s probably a closed discussion still, but still a very good chance."
The Summit Land Conservancy paid more than $1.5 million for the river properties, with half coming from the federal government, some from the Eastern Summit County Agricultural Preservation Committee and the rest from grants.