Hi-Ute ranch and Three Mile Canyon conserved
The long standing Hi-Ute Ranch, with the rustic white barn and miles of undeveloped foothills east of Pinebrook, is one of the first sites visitors see when entering Summit County along Interstate 80 from the west. Due to a joint collaboration between various conservation groups, an easement was placed on the 1,268-acre parcel this week, ensuring that it will continue to be an undeveloped wildlife and recreation haven.
The Snyderville Basin Open Space Committee (BOSAC) and Utah Open Lands signed a deal to purchase the property from the Buehner family for $4 million. Utah Open Lands committed at least $1.2 million to the purchase while BOSAC pledged a minimum of $2 million, with the possibility of contributing an additional $800,000 if Utah Open Lands is unable to meet its goal, according to BOSAC Executive Director Max Greenhalgh. BOSAC’s $2 million contribution was made possible by an Open Space Bond that Summit County residents approved last year.
Greenhalgh said the preservation of the Hi-Ute Ranch has been a top priority for the group due to its abundance of wildlife and sensitive lands.
"We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Buehner family for selling us this property for significantly less than its value," Greenhalgh said. "Paul [Buehner] really wanted to see the property he loves stay open forever."
A portion of the ranch containing the Hi-Ute barn and surrounding structures was purchased by BOSAC in 2004. The total acreage, located south of I-80 near Kimball Junction, will extend from I-80 three miles south to Murdoch Peak, located within Canyons Resort.
Wendy Fisher, executive director of Utah Open Lands, said the organization has been working on acquiring the property for open space for over 10 years and called the easement "visionary."
"This was all made possible because there was a landowner who saw the value of preserving the watershed and this amazing land," she said. "Residents of Summit County have done some of the most amazing, forward thinking things in preserving the land that is so vital to the economy. This is such a fantastic piece of land and it will really become a legacy for both the landowners and the residents."
Wednesday night, the Summit County Council, BOSAC’s governing body, approved the immediate allocation of $2 million for the purchase of the conservation easement. Utah Open Lands has until the end of the year to raise an initial $500,000, according to Greenhalgh, who added that the buildings and maintenance of the property will gradually be transferred from the Buehner family to Summit County.
"The purchase of this property fulfills every mission of BOSAC," Greenhalgh said. "We are preserving sensitive land and providing recreational access with the extension of trials in that area. We will also be protecting the scenic viewshed and excluding the area from Ecker Hill Middle School to Powderwood from development, one of the largest remaining pristine open spaces in the Basin."
Greenhalgh added that in the end, it is the citizens of Summit County that made the purchase of the land available due to their foresight in voting for the Open Space Bond even during a recession.
While the governor touted state initiatives, members of the public questioned what Cox is doing to help with issues such as the labor shortage and affordable housing, open space, water and education.
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