Summit Land Conservancy announces $20 million For the Future campaign |

Summit Land Conservancy announces $20 million For the Future campaign

Initiative would create a ‘quick strike revolving fund’ to take land off the market

Summit Land Conservancy Chief Executive Officer Cheryl Fox speaks at the nonprofit’s annual conservation breakfast. She announced the For the Future Fund campaign, an initiative to raise $20 million over the next five years.
David Jackson/Park Record

From Huntsville to Heber, the Summit Land Conservancy has received countless requests over the last 20 years to protect farms and waterways for years to come. But with a looming deadline to save more land before time runs out, the nonprofit has launched a new campaign to help protect the future.

The Summit Land Conservancy at its annual conservation breakfast on Tuesday announced its new capital campaign to raise $20 million over the next five years, “For the Future.” Every dollar donated by individuals over the next five years will be added to the fund, which will help leverage other dollars contributed by landowners, foundations or the Summit County open space bond. 

The For the Future Fund is part of the nonprofit’s larger, $100 million Utah Headwaters Initiative, a project started in 2019 that’s focused on preserving resources surrounding the Weber, Provo and Bear River watersheds – which all feed into the Great Salt Lake. The initiative will triple the acreage under Summit Land Conservancy protection over the next five years, according to the nonprofit’s Chief Executive Officer Cheryl Fox. 

“We’re in trouble and we know it,” she said. “All three of the major rivers that feed the Great Salt Lake rise in Summit County … When we save farms and ranches across the Wasatch Back, we are saving this watershed. This year of exceptional snow has given us a chance of reprieve; to pull ourselves together. To take the time to make policy changes. To make landscape changes and to build alliances.”

Fox on Tuesday, noting the inclusion of a river in Summit Land Conservancy’s new logo, emphasized the importance of local waterways. She talked about the danger the state and the rest of the country face with the threat of the Great Salt Lake disappearing as well as the impacts the county’s success or failure will likely have. 

The Summit Land Conservancy is striving to address this crisis by protecting around 36,000 acres of mountains, meadows and more across the Wasatch Back. Conserving land helps support watershed protection by preventing elements of natural hydrology from being disturbed and maintaining the water cycle.

“Saving rangeland, farms, public open space, and river corridors solves all of these problems and it does it in a way that has a cascade of additional benefits,” Fox said.

She said that while farming is regarded as the largest water consumer in the state, agriculture is the most readily available source of water with around 50% going back into rivers. Developments and municipalities do not have the same return rate.

However, improvements are being made through agricultural water optimization, which improves how farmland water is processed but allows farmers to keep their water rights. Fox is hopeful that preserving well-managed agricultural lands will create more opportunities for landowners to divert their water back to the earth.

The money raised by individuals through the For the Future Fund will allow Summit Land Conservancy to act quickly to save properties across the Wasatch Back. Fox said the nonprofit plans to create a “quick strike revolving fund” that will allow staffers to purchase land outright or make a down payment – swiftly taking the real estate off the market. The funds would then be replaced by conservation dollars from other partners.

And timing is everything.

Summit Land Conservancy was recently awarded a federal grant that will allow it to preserve 4,500 acres in Echo Canyon; the first time they received it after five consecutive years of applying. The money won’t be distributed for at least another year, Fox said, meaning it’ll take about seven years for the property to officially be conserved.

“That’s just not fast enough in our current crisis,” she said. She continued that there’s a backlog of property owners interested in preserving their land, which totals tens of thousands of acres.

Fox acknowledged that $20 million is a lot of money, but she was hopeful the For the Future Fund would help the Summit Land Conservancy leverage limited state and federal funding as well as contributions from regional partners “to get the deals done.” So far, the nonprofit has commitments for $1.5 million. 

Guest speakers Andrew Bowman, the president and CEO of the Land Trust Alliance, and Darren Parry, the former chairman of the Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation, spoke highly of conservation efforts in Summit County. Bowman praised the Summit Land Conservancy for its work to preserve more than 13,000 acres over 20 years, and Parry said the community has set a great example that could inspire a paradigm shift.

“The Conservancy is making the choice to step up and do our part to solve the crisis of the lake, mitigate climate change, and protect the beautiful healthy lands of the Wasatch Back. We know that our efforts alone won’t solve these problems, but we know it’s time to put aside differences and work together, as friends, to save land for the future,” Fox said.

To learn more about the campaign, visit


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