USU receives largest gift in school history in form of wildlife preserve

PARK CITY, Utah — Utah State University President Stan L. Albrecht and the board of directors of the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter in Park City announced today the largest private gift in USU history. The gift transfers the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter to USU ownership and oversight. The monetary value of the gift is in excess of $30 million. Moreover, the addition of the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter directly advances USU’s statewide scientific, educational and outreach mission in the Park City area. The Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter consists of a 1,200-acre land trust in the Snyderville Basin and a 10,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility dedicated to environmental education. The preserve protects critical wetland and foothill terrain in the heart of one of the state’s fastest-growing areas. The EcoCenter, completed in 2009, is a multi-use facility with space for educational and community activities. The facility is LEED Platinum Certified, the highest standard for design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. “The gift of the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter will be renowned as one of the most important in Utah State University’s history,” Albrecht said. “USU’s expertise, coupled with the commitment of the Swaner family and the Park City community, will ensure that the Swaner commitment to the ecosystem will be fulfilled.” While becoming a component unit of Utah State University, the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter will continue to bear the Swaner name as a tribute to Leland and Dr. Paula Swaner, who operated the preserve as a working cattle ranch. The Swaners began the preserve in 1993 with an initial gift of 190 acres. Thanks to the Swaners, their family and other supporters, the preserve has grown to 1,200 acres through additional land donations and acquisitions. The EcoCenter facility was made possible through numerous financial and in-kind donations. “Although the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter bear my family’s name, we certainly don’t deserve all the credit for its creation,” said Sumner Swaner, Chairman, Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter Board. “Over the past 17 years myriad donors, past and current board members, volunteers, friends and family members have worked tirelessly to conserve this land and develop the EcoCenter.” Today the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter pursues a three-fold mission to preserve the land and the human connection to the natural landscape, to educate the local and broader communities about the value of nature and to nurture both the ecosystem and the people connected with it. “The board’s objective in making this donation was to partner the Preserve and EcoCenter with an organization that will continue the Swaner mission in perpetuity,” said Annette Herman, executive director of the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter. “Utah State University — as Utah’s land-grant institution and with its world-renowned curriculum in natural resources, conservation and science — is the perfect match for Swaner.” The EcoCenter will become USU’s first facility in the Park City area. A high-level team of administrators is working to develop a plan to maximize the value of the gift for the university, the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter, and the greater Park City community. Initial plans call for USU to offer adult and youth programming that complements and expands the current offerings. In addition, the preserve will serve as a research and demonstration space for world-class research in ecology, wildlife and human interaction with nature. “When we began creating the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter nearly 20 years ago, we had the goal of finding a partner that shared our vision for this land,” said Dr. Paula Swaner, founding board member. “This is truly a dream come true to know we have found one in USU that will help us conserve and maintain this land as open space forever.” USU’s president said the university is thrilled by the gift and the opportunity it represents. “We look forward to partnering with Swaner’s board and staff to offer the Park City community new and unique educational opportunities,” Albrecht said. “This site will become a key part of the cultural and educational fabric of Summit County.” The current board of directors will remain in place as an advisory board to oversee the Swaner mission and secure the ongoing funds to operate the programming. Like other USU outreach facilities, the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter will be self-sufficient in funding. The current staff will remain in place to continue and expand the Preserve and EcoCenter’s educational programming, and community and children’s programming. For more information, visit or call 435-649-1767. USU is in the midst of a comprehensive campaign to raise $400 million in private support. This gift brings the campaign total to $285 million. The campaign continues through July 2012.

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