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Local Land Trust Purchases 30 acres to Protect Threatened Orchid

 The Bear River Land Conservancy (BRLC) has established the Mendon Meadow Preserve with 30 acres of farmland and pasture purchased in Mendon, Utah, that provides habitat for Ute ladies' tresses (Spiranthes diluvialis), an orchid listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Funding for the acquisition was arranged by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to mitigate for habitat lost during recent construction projects in northern Utah. The BRLC is the local partner for the USFWS to secure the property and implement a habitat management plan to protect the orchid.
According to Betsy Herrmann, USFWS Utah Field Office, "Prior to its 2008 discovery at this property, the orchid was not known to exist in Cache County. Conservation of the site will protect the population from future development. With private sector help, we can not only provide money to the Conservancy for acquisition but also provide for future management of the property to protect this species."

A management plan is being developed by the Conservancy and the USFWS that will also further the Conservancy's mission of protecting agricultural lands. Herrmann explained, "This orchid needs wetlands with short or sparse vegetation and plenty of sunlight. Proper agricultural management can help provide those optimal conditions."

Dave Rayfield, Chairman of the Board for the Conservancy explained, "Our mission includes protecting critical habitats, but we are also committed to conserving part of our rapidly disappearing agricultural base." Paul Willie, a life-long resident of Mendon and also a member of the Conservancy's Board of Directors, noted, "This land has been farmed since pioneer times and we'd like to see it continue in a similar way."

Dr. Mark Brunson, USU ecologist and chairman of the Conservancy's Stewardship Committee, noted that this preserve will not only protect and aid in recovery of this species, but it will also conserve habitat for other species. "As more agricultural operations are moving from flood to sprinkler irrigation, we are losing our wet meadow habitat, which is critical for other species including wading birds and amphibians. It's important to protect lands for a wide range of habitat values and this parcel does that."

The Bear River Land Conservancy encourages interested residents to join as members of the organization. Rayfield noted, "We have already completed three significant projects and others are in the works. If we are to conserve these critical lands for posterity, we need help from the community. All hands are welcome!"

About Bear River Land Conservancy

The Bear River Land Conservancy is one of 1,500 qualified land trusts in the United States. It is located in and serves Box Elder, Cache, and Rich Counties in northern Utah. BRLC is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity and a member of the national Land Trust Alliance. They focus on protecting private lands that offer public benefits, and they employ a wide range of tools including conservation easements, fee purchase, and management consulting. They ensure successful stewardship though endowments to help maintain conservation values in perpetuity. They also work with private landowners to develop innovative, economical, and adaptive management practices to improve those conservation values. BRLC members are diverse - sportsmen and women, environmentalists, farmers and ranchers, scientists, real estate interests, public agencies, students, and everyday citizens. Information is available from www.BearRiverLandConservancy.org, or by emailing BRLC@BearRiverLandConservancy.org.

About United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Utah Ecological Services Office

The vision of the Utah Ecological Services Field Office is: "Achieving sustainable native species and ecosystems through leadership, partnerships, and innovation." Located in Salt Lake City, the Office provides biological advice to other federal and state agencies, industry, and members of the public concerning the conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitat that may be affected by development activities. Staff persons assess the potential effects of projects to migratory birds, endangered species, and other fish and wildlife. In Utah these projects typically include activities such as agriculture, mining, utility lines, dredge and fill activities, dam and reservoir operations, oil and gas leasing, and highway construction. Staff persons also assess the effects of contaminants on fish and wildlife. They make recommendations regarding ways to avoid, minimize, or compensate for harmful impacts on fish and wildlife resources and their habitats. The primary areas of responsibility for the Utah Ecological Services Field Office include contaminant assessments, endangered species, Federal project reviews, and wetlands conservation. Information is available at: http://www.fws.gov/utahfieldoffice/index.html.

For information, contact:
Bear River Land Conservancy: Dave Rayfield, (435) 757-9120, brlc@BearRiverLandConservancy.org or Bryan Dixon, (435) 760-0691, brlc@BearRiverLandConservancy.org
USFWS: Betsy Herrmann, (801) 975-3330, betsy_herrmann@fws.gov