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This meadow may be for the birds, but it would also benefit the public if it remains undeveloped as open space just outside Salt Lake City, according to land preservationists.
Utah Open Lands has until Nov. 7 to raise $700,000 required to acquire the 4.6-acre owl habitat spanning Emigration Creek just upstream from Ruth's Diner. The land is zoned for residential development with up to one unit per acre possible. The property's owner, whose identity is confidential outside of the potential transaction, has received many purchase offers, the owner says, but has agreed to sell to the conservation nonprofit first if it can meet a tight deadline.
This spot is important habitat for great horned owls, Northern saw-whet owls, Cooper's hawks, American kestrels and red tail hawks and is situated by two other preserves around Perkins Flat, totaling 264 acres, according to Wendy Fisher, Open Lands executive director.
"Residents, cyclists, bikers and visitors traveling Emigration Canyon enjoy this scenic meadow," Fisher said. "Any development will degrade its visual and ecological value. We need community support for this project quickly to meet the seller's deadline. It's a small amount of acreage, but the conservation value is tremendous."
A pair of great horned owls nested here this year, fledging four owlets. The owl meadow is one of many proposed acquisitions Fisher plans to announce in the coming weeks. Open Lands plans to raise money separately for those acquisitions; because of the short time frame for the owl habitat deal, Open Lands will not accept pledges, just donations.
"If we can't raise the funds in time, 100 percent of the collected money [for the owl habitat] will be returned, and at least we will have tried," Fisher said. "It is a lot of money and short time frame, but based on strategic location next to land we have already protected and the species we have identified there, we felt we had to try."
The deadline for closing is Dec. 15. Fisher will also solicit grants from Salt Lake County's open space fund, the Utah Division of Water Quality and private foundations.
Brian Maffly covers public lands for The Salt Lake Tribune. Maffly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-257-8713.