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Utah Open Lands works to preserve land in the North Fields of Wasatch County

Utah Open Lands

Utah Open Lands works to preserve open spaces, recreation areas and family farms. It has two main projects affecting Wasatch County.

There are two critical projects in the North Fields area in Wasatch County Utah Open Lands has secured federal funding for. The first is about 165-acres off Highway 113 near Heber called the Laren Gertsch property. The second is called the Mitchell Kissel property. It’s 37-acres on the entry corridor to Midway from River Road.

Wendy Fisher is the executive director of Utah Open Lands. She said the North Fields was identified as an area to protect when the Wasatch County Open Space Bond was passed.

“It's got amazing carbon sequestration values, it's a sub-irrigated area that has some significant wetland values, habitat values for sandhill, crane and moose and deer and even elk," Fisher said. "It is a really, really valuable area.”

Utah Open Lands is requesting about $2.2 million from the Wasatch County Council to fund the Laren Gertsch property’s conservation easement. That’s on top of $6.5 million in federal funds.

Midway City has committed the last of its open space bond dollars to the Kissel Mitchell property and Fisher said they will receive $2.5 million in federal funding for it. Utah Open Lands is asking for $750,000 from the Wasatch County Open Space Bond Fund to move forward with the conservation easement.

Fisher said Utah Open Lands worked with the Kohler family to protect another property near the Kissel Mitchell property.

“That property was one of the first large landscaped open spaces protected with Wasatch County open space bond funds and Midway City open space bond funds,” she said.

The organization also helped get federal funding for the 57-acre Giles property, another area in the North Fields. About a year ago, the organization received 20% of the conservation easement cost for the property from the Wasatch County Council. The rest of the easement was covered by federal funding.

“A lot of money is coming to the Wasatch back in terms of these federal funds that can really help ensure the protection of some of these places that we really, really care about,” Fisher said.

The Wasatch County Council is holding a public hearing Wednesday at 6 p.m. to discuss using open space bond funds to support preservation efforts on the Laren Gertsch and Kissel Mitchell properties.

The Heber City Council has previously urged the Wasatch County Council to wait to protect the land in the North Fields. The city is working to approve a route for a western bypass road meant to draw traffic away from Heber’s Main Street and two possible routes go through the North Fields.