Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

April 14, 2009

Contact: Kevin Sloan, 303-236-4404

              David McGillivary, 303-236-4411

 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Public Comments for a proposed Land Exchange on the

Parowan Front Wildlife Management Area, Utah

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is seeking public comment on a draft environmental assessment (DEA) for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) and Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (TLA) on the proposed exchange of up to 720 acres of UDWR-owned “substantial value” mule deer winter range for approximately 657 acres of TLA-owned land, approximately 400 acres of which are considered “crucial-value” winter habitat for mule deer.  The Parowan Front Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is managed by the UDWR and was acquired in part with Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act (PR) program funds for big game winter range.  The public will have 30 days until May 13, 2009 to submit their comments.

UDWR currently owns and manages over 6,000 acres in the Parowan Front WMA situated in the foothills east of I-15 near the town of Summit, located in Iron County, Utah.  The holdings in this particular WMA were acquired during the period 1952-1985, from a mix of private, U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Utah School & Institutional Trust Lands Administration (TLA) sources.  A primary wildlife value provided by the Parowan Front WMA is crucial winter habitat for mule deer, although it supplies winter habitat values for other wildlife species, including elk, wild turkeys, and bald eagles.

In January 2000, UDWR granted a right-of-way (ROW) for a pre-existing, unpaved road which crossed UDWR property on the Parowan Front WMA.  This ROW was granted to the owners of a parcel of private land located on the mountain immediately above the WMA.  Implicit in the grant of this ROW was recognition by UDWR that the pre-existing road had a long history of continuous public use by the previous owners and their predecessors. 

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (Attachment A in the Draft Environmental Assessment) was developed which defines the appropriate balance among the major competing interests, wildlife conservation and access to private lands occurring above the crucial winter ranges.

The MOU was signed by involved private landowners, UDWR, BLM, and the Iron County, Utah Commission.  These parties also were able to agree that conserving the winter range values which help sustain mule deer and other wildlife contributes to the quality of life for people inhabiting the area and was important, therefore, to the interests of all the involved parties.

Through provision of limited access corridors passing through the winter range, and through implementation of the land exchange detailed in the Proposed Action, the parties to the MOU agreed specifically on what was deemed to constitute adequate public and private access, so that no new corridors would be needed in the foreseeable future.  This agreement should provide a balancing influence over time to any new demands which could arise from private landowners seeking additional access pathways across the winter range.  The proposed land exchange is a pivotal element of completing this conservation strategy.

 

UDWR has concluded that a land exchange would provide the best option for wildlife given the circumstances surrounding the Parowan Front WMA.  Realty actions of this nature cannot be undertaken by UDWR on lands acquired with PR grant funds without additional federal authorization, since the original purchases of Parowan Front lands were provided in-part through a Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act grant (W-66-L) issued by the Service.  Because funds were provided by the Service, the original purchases and subsequent exchange lands were bound under contracts between UDWR and the Service.  These agreements help ensure that wildlife lands and waters continue to be managed for the purposes which led to their original acquisition. 

 

The proposed land exchange constitutes a federal action subject to the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA).  The Service is therefore required to prepare a Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) to analyze the effects on the human environment and document the findings.  The Service will use this DEA to determine if the proposed action is likely to result in significant impacts to the human environment.  If it is determined that there are no significant adverse impacts, the Service will issue a final environmental assessment and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).  If it is determined, conversely, that significant impacts might occur, the Service will be required to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Detailed information on the proposed project is contained in the DEA and Appendices.  Public comment on the proposed exchange and the DEA will assist the Service in deciding whether to approve the project.  The Service must determine whether the proposed project is eligible pursuant to the Wildlife Restoration Act grant program.  The project will be assessed for character, design, and compliance with federal rules and regulations.

Copies of the DEA are available online by clicking on the title of the document at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/federalassistance.  Those without internet access may request copies by calling the Service’s Division of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program at 303-236-4404.  Comments should be sent to: Chief, Division of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 25486, Denver, CO  80225.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.