Bridgerland Audubon Society and the Bear River Land Conservancy have reached agreement to transfer a Conservation Easement on 455 acres of Bear River bottomlands near Trenton, Utah to the Conservancy. The lands are owned by PacifiCorp. The Conservancy plans to continue to improve the property’s habitat values and begin immediately working with PacifiCorp to establish conservation easements on other, similar lands along the Bear River.Richard Mueller, Conservation chair for the Bridgerland Audubon Society, said “The Society invested thousands of volunteer hours and thousands of dollars to establish the easement, but we really needed to find it a more permanent home with a land trust that is designed to hold and steward these projects in perpetuity. The Bear River Land Conservancy provides the perfect home for the easement and greatly increases the potential for critical land protection in the future.”Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp, acquired these lands in 1981 as part of a settlement agreement following unusually high spring runoff in the late 1970s. The property is part of the Bear River Bottoms, an extensive area of riparian and wetland habitat along the Bear River in Cache County. “The Bear River Land Conservancy was established in 2011 to conserve and enhance private lands for wildlife habitat, working farms and ranches, land and trails of recreational or historical significance, watersheds, and critical vistas, using conservation easements and sound management, to benefit the people of northern Utah, today and in perpetuity. We are currently working on several easement and acquisition projects, but we are pleased to accept this assignment of part of the Bear River Bottoms as our first official success.” said Dave Rayfield, projects director for the Conservancy. The Conservancy depends on partnerships with other organizations, including hunters, farmers and ranchers, environmental groups, municipalities, and individual residents. “One of our key objectives is to continue working with private landowners, especially our agricultural neighbors,” Laraine Swenson, another Conservancy Board member said. “Many of the critical lands in northern Utah – habitats, agriculture lands, and open spaces – are located in the valley floors and are privately owned. Many of the landowners of these properties want to see their properties continue to provide important benefits for the public, but they need a mechanism to help them accomplish these protections. That’s exactly what we’re designed to do – protection here and forever.”Some of the major partners so far have included The Nature Conservancy in Utah, a chapter of the national organization, which has provided invaluable expertise and significant start-up funding for the local Conservancy. “We think these local land trusts are absolutely key to addressing local conservation needs and fulfilling stewardship responsibilities that address community needs,” said Dave Livermore, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy of Utah. Other important partners have included the local office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Jon Hardman, NRCS District Conservationist, said “We need a qualified private-sector partner with the capabilities to work with private landowners. Protecting lands in-perpetuity is a huge commitment and the land trust needs to be very technically capable. The Bear River Land Conservancy is certainly getting off on the right foot.” Karl Fleming, manager of the Partner’s Program for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, said “We supported Bridgerland Audubon Society’s efforts because they help to ensure habitat protections for the entire region. This is a big step forward in a concerted effort to enhance the entire Bear River watershed.”Dean Brockbank, vice-president and general counsel for PacifiCorp Energy approved the assignment. “As a public utility, our company explicitly includes environmental protection as part of our mission and we recognize that the Bear River Bottoms are a natural treasure,” Brockbank said. “We are limited in what we can do for lands that aren’t directly part of our hydroelectric projects. We think working with a qualified land trust is exactly the right approach.”The Bear River Land Conservancy is encouraging interested residents to join as members of the fledgling organization. They believe there is much to do and all hands are welcome.
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