North Fork Ranch conservation easement protects Virgin River, forests
Photo: Paul Maynard

The Trust for Public Land, in partnership with the State of Utah Department of Natural Resources and the USDA Forest Service, announced the protection of a 382-acre ranch adjacent to the Dixie National Forest and just northeast of Zion National Park. The North Fork Ranch will preserve private forest and grazing land while protecting the Virgin River watershed. This watershed provides clean drinking water to the growing community of Washington County and habitat for a number of wildlife including bald eagles, blue grouse, and native cutthroat trout.

“As southern Utah continues to grow, the Virgin River and its tributaries will only become more important — for both people and wildlife,” said Paul Maynard, Trust for Public Land project manager. “Protecting properties like North Fork Ranch, with significant reaches of the river, will prove a valuable investment into the future.”

The North Fork Ranch was designated a Utah Century Farm and Ranch in 1996 by then-Governor Michael Leavitt. This classification is for farms which are over 100 years old and have contributed to Utah’s heritage. The North Fork Ranch was homesteaded in 1890 and has since been managed by family members of Don and Sylvia Bulloch as a working ranch and timber resource. Like many other private property owners in the area, the Bullochs had been concerned about development pressures and land fragmentation along the North Fork and resolved to safeguard the natural resources on their property.

Over the last several years the Bullochs had completed various forest management projects in cooperation with the State of Utah and Natural Resource Conservation Service but ultimately wanted a conservation easement to protect the ranch in perpetuity.

“It has been a pleasure to work with the Bulloch family on the preservation of high-quality forest land in perpetuity,” said Laura Vernon, Utah Forest Legacy coordinator. “The family’s commitment to protect their ‘working forest’ — a forest that supports the natural resource economy, protects water quality, provides critical habitat, and enhances recreation opportunities — is the fundamental goal of the invaluable Forest Legacy Program.”

In addition to a significant donation by the property owners, the conservation easement was funded by the USDA Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, which supports working forests while preventing subdivision, development, and other uses that might impair the North Fork River. The Forest Legacy Program is made possible by The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is funded by a small fraction of revenues generated by offshore oil and gas royalty payments. It is not supported with general taxpayer dollars. The Trust for Public Land negotiated and facilitated the transaction.

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