Conservation easement secured for 2,100-acre East Side ranch
The Summit Land Conservancy closed on a seven-year deal on Friday, Dec. 8, to purchase more than 2,100 acres in eastern Summit County as part of an effort to permanently preserve the property as agricultural ranch land.
The project is the ninth working ranch the conservancy has protected within the last 12 years and is considered the largest conservation project the organization has permanently preserved, according to a press release.
The property, located seven miles northeast of Coalville in Chalk Creek Canyon, has been in the Ercanbrack family for three generations, according to Cheryl Fox, Summit Land Conservancy’s executive director. The property is managed by Ed and Dixie Ercanbrack and their two children, Dusty and Dane.
“I have two kids that are interested in carrying on the family ranch and I’m preserving the land and opportunity for them,” Ed Ercanbrack said in the release.
The Ercanbrack Ranch has functioned as a cattle operation since the 1920s and was also home to one of the first coal mines in Coalville, the release states. The property is now used as a summer range for about 200 head of livestock.
“The next generation, who are in their 20s and 30s, are actively engaged in the ranching operation and they, along with their parents, were really excited about the opportunity to do some conservation on their family’s property,” Fox said. “From the Summit Land Conservancy’s perspective, it is a huge honor to be able to help these families maintain their heritage and preserve it as a legacy for the future.
“It is also important to understand how this benefits not just the family, but all of us,” she said.
The Ercanbrack Ranch is sage grouse habitat, Fox said. She added, “By protecting sage grouse habitat we are able to keep them from being listed as an endangered species.” She said one of the biggest issues the animals face is the loss of their breeding grounds.
Fox also highlighted other big game that benefit from the conservation easement, such as elk, moose and mule deer, and the benefit to the watershed. The property is home to several creeks and natural springs that part of the Weber River watershed.
“By keeping this as a ranch, it means these 2,100 acres won’t get carved into a bunch of roads or developments that increase erosion,” she said.
Summit Land Conservancy completed the transaction on Friday, Dec. 8. Approximately 75 percent of the purchase was funded through a federal program. The rest of the funds were secured through a grant from the state of Utah and a contribution from the Eastern Summit County Open Space Committee.
“Protecting the land and water is important to our community,” Fox said. “And our community is larger than the people of Park City. It includes the wildlife as well.”
The Summit Land Conservancy is working on four more projects in the eastern part of the county, including three along the Weber River.
“It’s not just about the families,” Fox said. “It’s one of the things we hear most often from people who object to conservation easements. They forget to look at the bigger picture and the benefits we all receive when we save critical habitat and save clean water. We get a little narrow minded when we think about what is the community benefit and we need to be aware there is all of that.”