Bear River Land Conservancy, Created for Utah Habitat Conservation
A showy orchid waves lightly in the breeze from its foundation in a wet meadow. White, intricate blooms line its stem. This is a Ute Ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes diluvialis), a rare plant listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. It occurs in the same type of wet meadow that is important to a host of wetland-dependent migratory birds, such as Long-billed Curlew and White-faced Ibis. This crucial habitat is now protected thanks to the recently formed Bear River Land Conservancy.
This land conservancy was created because there was an opportunity to place 455 acres of riparian and wetland floodplain under easement but no land trust in the state could take the land on at the time.
“So we had to start one,” said Bryan Dixon, Acting Executive Director of the Bear River Land Conservancy. “We formed this land trust to protect critical lands for future generations. Our major thrust is to protect habitat and natural systems to provide for species that have no voice, and protect our own species by conserving systems that may provide critical needs as yet not understood.”
The IWJV has been absolute critical in providing start up funding, Dixon said, it’s hard to overstate how important their Capacity Grant program has been.
The Bear River Land Conservancy operates with a fully volunteer staff and Board, and, to date has completed four projects:
1. Bear River Bottoms: This is a conservation easement on 455 acres of riparian and wetland floodplain owned by PacifiCorp, a seven state power company. The land conservancy has management rights to the property and they have invested in eradicating weeds and tamarisk, and planting shrubs and trees to diversify the vegetative structure toward a more historic pattern. They have completed bird surveys to provide baseline data and have engaged partners from agriculture, wildlife agencies, education, conservation, and citizen groups on the property.
2. Bear Lake Preserve: This conservation easement protects three acres encompassing over 1,130 feet of shoreline along Bear Lake. This lake is extensively developed for vacation homes and tourism, and this conservation easement protects one of the few natural habitats remaining of shrubs, trees, ponds, and wetlands.
3. Mendon Meadow Preserve: This was a fee purchase of 30 acres of farmland, protecting a population of Ute Ladies’-tresses and associated wetlands. The conservancy manages this property for agriculture and open space, as well as the orchids. A large part of it is composed of wet meadow wetlands. It is also used to educate the public education on the value of open space and conservation.
4. Wetland Mitigation Site: This is a 7.5-acre emergent marsh and wet meadow wetland created within the Bear River Bottoms by the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to mitigate for wetland losses along a highway project in Logan. This project is valued as a model for more effective and valuable wetland mitigation.
“We want to make sure we do things right,” Dixon said. “Our charge is to protect critical lands in perpetuity. That is a solemn commitment and not one easily accomplished. We take our stewardship role very seriously, and the IWJV has been a major partner in our success so far.”