Conservation easement near Coalville is Summit Land Conservancy’s second largest
The Wright Land and Livestock ranch is about 3 miles east of downtown Coalville and stretches across more than 800 acres south of Chalk Creek Road.
As of Nov. 4, that land will be protected from development in perpetuity, thanks to a conservation easement co-held by the Summit Land Conservancy and Summit County.
The nonprofit’s conservation director and counsel Kate Sattelmeier said the easement means the land can still be used for farming and ranching, but it can’t be built into a subdivision of homes or another large-scale development.
The agreement includes enough flexibility for the family to build something necessary for farming like a hay barn, she added.
The 841-acre easement is the second largest the Summit Land Conservancy has secured so far, and Sattelmeier said it protects the open lands that define eastern Summit County.
“We’re helping farmers and ranchers preserve their traditional way of life while protecting important wildlife habitat,” she said.
In a press release, Dennis Wright, co-owner of the land, said conservation easements protect agricultural properties so ranching families don’t have to sell.
“We see it as the best option,” Wright said in the release. “This way we get to continue ranching and keep the business in the family for future generations.”
The easement was paid for largely with federal dollars, and Sattelmeier declined to share the purchase price to protect the family’s privacy.
Conservation easements essentially provide a way for landowners to access the equity in the land without having to sell it. Instead of carving off a chunk of the land to be turned into a subdivision, Summit Land Conservancy and other similar groups work to find funding sources to purchase future development rights that approximate what a family would receive if they sold the land.
The deal binds future owners of the land to the terms of the easement, Sattelmeier said. Though the land can be sold, the owners may never develop it.
Chalk Creek flows through parts of the land, according to the release. Sattelmeier said the land’s proximity to the Weber River makes it especially important to prevent development that could threaten water quality and the habitat for fish and wildlife including the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout, which is on the Utah sensitive species list.
The land is also in a sage grouse habitat, which is why the federal government paid for 75% of the transaction, Sattelmeier said. The Utah Quality Growth Commission, which oversees a fund that is used to protect land, also contributed funds.
Summit County did not contribute funds to this transaction, she said, though it has helped fund easements in the past. In order to access certain state funds, the state requires a government entity to sign on as a co-holder of the easement, which the county agreed to do. The Summit Land Conservancy will administer the easement going forward.
The land has been in the Wright family for nearly a century and is still used to raise cattle and farm hay, according to the release. The land is home to deer and elk and other animals in addition to aquatic species.
This is the 40th conservation easement secured by the Summit Land Conservancy since its founding, and Sattelmeier said the seven scheduled to be closed this year is a record for the nonprofit.
The nonprofit has helped protect 6,768 acres in Summit County, including parts of Round Valley, Quarry Mountain, Empire Canyon and the McPolin farmlands, according to the release.
This deal is the nonprofit’s second largest behind the Ercanbrack Ranch in Coalville, at 2,161 acres. The conservancy is working on an easement for a 4,000-acre ranch near Echo, as well.
Sattelmeier said it’s the busiest the conservancy has been, and that community support has been growing. As more landowners hear about the successes, she said, more seem to be willing to enter the lengthy, complicated process.
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The vote was split 3-1, with Rodney Robbins the lone dissenting vote. Adrianne Anson, Arlin Judd and Cody Blonquist voted for it; Tyler Rowser was absent because of a medical procedure.