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Utah Open Lands seeks community support to conserve North Fields

Utah Open Lands says it needs just shy of a million dollars to conserve some 250 acres of Wasatch County’s North Fields.

Several property owners in the North Fields have committed to placing their land under conservation easements, which will guard around 250 acres as open space.

That includes the 165-acre Gertsch property, the 37-acre Kissel property, and the 57-acre Giles property.

But getting those easements across the finish line is an expensive proposition, according to Utah Open Lands executive director Wendy Fisher. She said that acreage is worth millions.

“Just the conservation easement values alone totaled $23 million,” she said. “So it’s a huge leveraging of donations from the landowners.”

The process of securing a conservation easement involves cobbling together money from local, state and federal agencies to compensate landowners for the value of their property. Some property owners agree to a lower price for the land and offer the difference in value as a donation.

Fisher said her organization is working to raise $975,000 for those three easements, about three-quarters of which must come from donors in the community. The goal is for the rest to come from state funding. Utah Open Lands is applying for millions of dollars in federal funds, and county and municipal governments have pledged money toward the easements as well.

Utah Open Lands is holding a barbecue fundraiser in Midway to help reach its goal later this month. Eighth-generation Wasatch resident and Miss Wasatch County contestant Alexa Hewlett said she wants to contribute to open space efforts as part of her community service initiative for the pageant.

“On June 22, we are having a North Fields barbecue,” she said. “We’ll have performances and a silent auction -- $25 a ticket and all the proceedings go directly to the North Fields initiative.”

Open Lands community engagement director Alli Eroh said one aim of this fundraising campaign is to show that conserving the North Fields is a realistic goal.

“It’s really important, in this last $975,000, that we raise that within the community,” she said, “so that we’re signaling both to other landowners in the North Fields the viability of this conservation, as well as signaling to these larger funding entities like these federal grants… that this is backed by the community.”

Besides those three properties, Utah Open Lands is working to conserve more property in the Heber Valley: the Lundin family is making progress toward placing an easement on its 119 acres near Wasatch Mountain State Park. Once complete, that easement will bring the county’s open space total to more than 350 acres.

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