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State to buy 2,600 acres in East Canyon

Apr 25, 2024 09:44AM ● By Linda Peterson

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has plans to purchase a 2,600-acre property in East Canyon to expand the East Canyon Wildlife Management Area and develop more recreation opportunities in the area.

Most of the property is within the Rich Morgan-Summit Sage Grouse Management Area and provides winter and summer habitat for deer, elk, sage grouse, forest grouse, and other wildlife. With the purchase, DWR will manage 2,200 acres and add it to its wildlife management area. State Parks will manage 400 acres and has plans to provide more public access to the area by creating a new campground with 50 to 70 campsites,

“This purchase is important to further enhance public outdoor access,” Hailey Blair UDWR wildlife specialist told the Morgan County Commission April 16. “These improvements will align with the collective goal of providing a diverse range of outdoor enthusiasts with ample opportunities to connect with nature, fostering a greater appreciation for the expansive beauty that this land has to offer.”

 The property is considered contiguous vacant recreational land. It is adjacent to both East Canyon Wildlife Management Area owned by the Division of Wildlife as well as East Canyon State Park. Part of the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail runs through the property and will be preserved for perpetuity, Blair said. 

The purchase will also safeguard valuable big game habitat and open up future recreational opportunities for the public such as OHV trails and mountain biking, she said. “Between wildlife and state parks, there's a lot of recreational opportunities here.”

To fund this acquisition DWR secured $5 million, State Parks secured $5 million, and the Utah Legislature gave the UDWR $8.5 million.

The acquisition came about in large part because of the vision of County Commissioner Blaine Fackrell, said Commissioner Jared Anderson.

“I believe this is increasing our public grounds by at least 20 percent; it's a huge deal for us,” Anderson said.

“I really appreciate the work that's been put into this; it's a lot of work,” he said. “I appreciate Commissioner Fackrell working hard on this. When he first proposed this to us other commissioners we said, ‘Go ahead; good luck finding 20 million.’ I don't know of any other time any other commission that's ever been able to get appropriated $20 million without a dime being spent from the county.”

The work to acquire the land began two years ago when Fackrell decided to take on the project. 

“There were 16 lots allotted for this area by private people and of course, it was private ground,” he said. “One of the goals that I've had in Morgan County is to go and provide more public ground for all of us to enjoy.”

“I started working on it right away trying to find out how we could purchase this property and it finally came down with our legislative assistance,” he said. “Last March and April we started working on this. I had already talked to the governor long before that and he said, ‘Go for it.’ When the governor tells me to go ahead and go for it, I'm going to go for it.”

“Morgan County did not have the money to purchase it but the state legislature,

all of them were on board with preserving public ground for our county and they I think were very happy,” Fackrell added.

Morgan County’s lobbyist, Legislative Solutions, worked alongside Fackrell to put the deal together.

“You have three state senators that cover part of Morgan, and that was tremendously helpful to have that kind of firepower as we were looking for this appropriation,” Kerry Gibson of Legislative Solutions said. “So we're just really excited this project came together at nearly a $20 million price tag and it was done with direct legislative appropriation as well as some participation from the governor's office and the Department of Natural Resources, both from Parks and Recreation and the Division of Wildlife Resources.” 

The UDWR has signed a contract to purchase this property and is set to close as early as July, Blair told commissioners. 

“I'm hoping that the DWR will continue to work with us as a county to help fulfill that vision that we have to make this a public place for everybody to enjoy,” Fackrell said.λ

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