Bear River conservation easement

Bryan Dixon talks about the new easement that runs along the Bear River during a tour Friday morning. (Eli Lucero/Herald Journal)

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AMALGA - A 455-acre parcel of land was dedicated as a conservation easement along the Bear River near Trenton on Friday.

The property is part of the Bear River Bottoms, an extensive area of riparian and wetland habitat along the Bear River in Cache County. The easement is held by the Bridgerland Audubon Society, a nonprofit organization that purchased the property and development rights from the original land owner, PacifiCorp Energy, also known as Rocky Mountain Power.

In this case, the company donated the value of the conservation easement.

The easement boasts 60 acres of ponds and 68 species of birds.

"We could dedicate this to one or more individuals, we could dedicate it to ourselves, or our partners, because we've had a lot of help with this," Bryan Dixon, a board member Bridgerland Audubon Society, said at a dedication ceremony at Sugar Park yesterday. "But I think the dedication really needs to be ... to our children's children's children."

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement that allows a landowner to limit the type or amount of development on their property while retaining private ownership of the land. In 2009, PacifiCorp and the society signed the conservation easement, although the Audubon Society became interested in the flood plains in the 1990s. The easement also gave the society management control of the lands. More than 150 volunteers have given their time to work on the land, totaling 3,300 hours of service, Dixon said.

Dixon also announced the formation of the Bear River Land Conservancy on Friday, meant to "form an organization that was better suited" to maintain the land, said Dixon.

The new land trust organization is meant to conserve and enhance private property for "wildlife habitat, working farms and ranches, land and trails of recreational or historical significance, watersheds and critical vistas, using conservation easements and sound management, to benefit the people of Northern Utah."

The land is open for public use, including hunting in season as regulated by the Utah Division of Wildlife. Unauthorized motorized use is prohibited, in addition to overnight use and firearm use.

"Our company has six core principles, and one of them is environmental respect," said Dean Brockbank, vice president and general counsel for PacifiCorp Energy. "We take these kinds of things very seriously, and we sometimes are weary of turning over land that we own to third parties, but this is the first conservation easement that we've done ... this was a match made in heaven."

Dozens of people attended the dedication ceremony Friday morning, including state Sen. Lyle Hillyard.

Many agencies and programs have provided funding and technical assistance to help manage the property, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Several local businesses have also provided on-the-ground resources, including Cirrus Ecological Solutions, Bio-West, Juniper Systems and Providia.

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