This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Connecting children with nature is not only important to the kids, it pays off for nature as they get older.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has been working for more than a decade to create the Robert N. Hasenyager Great Salt Lake Nature Center near Farmington Bay.
Funding for the education complex has been sparse and the facility is not close to what state wildlife officials would like it to be.
But this year the Utah Legislature gave the center a boost with $1.2 million.
Wildlife managers had requested $2.5 million in 2014 and the project was put on the budget priorities list. DWR director Greg Sheehan says the money will be used immediately.
"Finding an area within a mile or two of densely populated areas where you can become immersed in the songs and sounds of hundreds of birds should be appreciated by all," Sheehan said. "Students and visitors will be able to learn about and experience our wetland ecosystems. They will also be able to see birds up close, including bald eagles, pintail ducks, blue herons, and smaller shore birds such as the American avocet."
The current facility includes two modular trailers designed and built by Viewmont High School students in 2003. There is no running water and only pit toilets. Possible improvements include two laboratory classrooms with science equipment, a large meeting room or auditorium, and modern restrooms.
"I am thrilled that this project could come to fruition now when our Wasatch front communities are looking for fun and free places to learn about nature right in their back yards," Sheehan said.
Other decisions impacting wildlife resources include:
In a last-minute move, Spanish Fork Republican Rep. Mike McKell convinced his colleagues to pay $500,000 to attorney Ryan Benson to continue fighting to remove wolves from the Endangered Species List. Lawmakers had already approved giving Benson $2 million to lobby Congress to delay a decision on the possible listing of Greater sage grouse.
Another bill from McKell allows people to kill unlimited feral swine with a firearm, bow and arrow or crossbow. The feral hogs, most prevalent in southwestern Utah, are a threat to agriculture and wildlife.
Lawmakers passed legislation making it a third-degree felony to transport or release endangered wildlife to a new habitat.
A $400,000 mitigation fund will pay farmers who can document damage to their property from the Utah prairie dog.
A non-binding resolution urges Congress to start transferring the protection and management of wild horses and burros from federal agencies to the state.