The Park Record editorial, December 17-20, 2011 | ParkRecord.com

The Park Record editorial, December 17-20, 2011

A perfect Christmas present: Hi Ute Ranch preserved

Santa Claus is delivering a particularly big gift to Summit County residents this year 1,300 acres of scenic foothills south of Interstate 80 just west of Kimball Junction. The gift completes the preservation of the Hi Ute Ranch, a small portion of which was protected in 2004.

The purchase agreement and preservation easement for the land in Three-Mile Canyon were made possible by several conservation organizations, a locally approved open space bond and the generosity of the current landowners.

As approved on Wednesday, Utah Open Lands has pledged at least $1.2 million of the $4 million asking price and the Summit County Council has agreed to contribute $2.8 million. Summit County’s portion will be drawn from the proceeds of a recent open-space bond supported by local residents.

The property, which is laden with critical wildlife habitat and laced with trails, would likely have become prime real estate for future development. But the members of the Buehner family, who own the land, are to be commended for their willingness to forgo potentially larger profits that could have been derived from breaking up the property to sell to the highest bidders and, instead, preserve it.

Summit County voters should congratulate themselves, too, for making a short-term financial sacrifice to ensure their quality of life for the long term. Certainly future residents will appreciate every acre of open space as new subdivisions and commercial areas continue to encroach on their playgrounds.

This cooperative agreement between public and nonprofit conservation groups is just one of a number of local success stories in which disappearing ranches, farmlands and watersheds have been preserved. Local groups like Utah Open Lands and the Summit Land Conservancy have been hard at work educating landowners and government officials about structuring easements and tax breaks that make these kinds of agreements possible. Their work, in turn, has been supported by local residents whose donations help conservation groups spread the word.

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In another example of local support for land preservation, the Mountain Trails Foundation recently gave a portion of its windfall from the Park City Foundation’s LivePC GivePC Day to the Summit Land Conservancy. That wise and generous gesture, combined with the new open-space purchase, helps to ensure that hikers will have new vistas to discover on foot, or on bikes or skis, including those among the beautiful hills above the Hi Ute Ranch, for years to come.

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