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Partners for Fish and Wildlife - Utah
Mountain-Prairie Region
Graphic button showing the 8 state mountain prairie region

Partners for Fish & Wildlife - Utah


Overview | Accomplishments | Utah PFW Strategic Plan | Contact Us | Open / Close All

A person sands in a muddy landscape, backdropped by mountains

Utah PFW staff re-seeding native grasses and other plants after completion of a restoration project. Credit: USFWS. View Full Screen

Utah is the eleventh largest state in the Nation with 81% of the land base owned by federal or state agencies. Opportunities for the Partners Program are still extensive because private landowners control over 18,000 square miles, and they are some of the most critical habitats for numerous wildlife species. Utah is the second driest state in the nation, so riparian and wetland projects are a high priority. These areas are an extremely valuable but limited resource.

Utah Partners for Fish and Wildlife works with local watershed teams and working groups to set priorities for focus areas. A watershed based management system has been adopted in numerous areas throughout Utah. These priority areas are revisited yearly and adjusted accordingly to watershed and/or local workgroup goals and objectives.

2019 Regional Director's Partnership Award

This award, and the opportunity it provides us to recognize the people behind our incredible partnerships, means a great deal to me and our entire regional leadership team.

Four people pose for the camera, a young man on the left holds a glass award with an older man wearing a black cowboy hat. Next to them, a man and a woman smile at the camera

Pictured from left to right: Clint Wirick, Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist; Richard Bagley; Kendall Bagley; Noreen Walsh, Regional Director. Photo: Heather Johnson, USFWS. View Full Screen

The winner for 2019 was the Richard Bagley family. A ranching family in Cedar City, Utah, the Bagleys were recognized for their conservation ethic and innovative leadership in support of agriculture, wildlife, habitats, and rural communities. For ten years they have been cooperating landowners with the Utah Partners for Fish and Wildlife program. Biologist Clint Wirick and other partners have supported the Bagleys in improving grazing management, restoring stream and riparian habitat, and enhancing upland areas by seeding a variety of grasses and forbs. Richard Bagley and his son, Kendall, were presented their award at the Private Lands Partners Day this September in Ogden, Utah.

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Overview »

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Utah Partner's Activities | Wildlife Benefiting from Partners Assistance | Habitats | Conservation Strategies | Partners

Prairie dogs. Credit: USFWS.

Utah prairie dogs. Credit: Lynn Chamberlain, Utah DWR.

Utah Partner’s Activities

  • Riparian restoration
  • Wetland restoration
  • In-stream restoration
  • Rangeland restoration
  • Noxious plant management

Upland restoration techniques predominately used by Utah Partners for Fish and Wildlife are grass seedings. Riparian and in-stream restoration techniques include fencing to exclude livestock grazing and installing in-stream structures to provide in-stream habitat.

The habitats receiving highest priority are in-stream and riparian habitat. These habitats benefit numerous trust species. We are also directing our restoration/protection efforts toward wetlands and shrub/scrub (sagebrush) communities.

Wildlife Benefiting from Partners Assistance

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Waterfowl - 50% of the breeding cinnamon teal in North America nest in Utah.

Shorebirds - Great Salt Lake ecosystem was designated as a Site of Hemispheric Importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.

Native fish - Three different species of cutthroat trout are found in Utah streams.

Amphibians - Spotted frog

Neotropical migrants - Common yellowthroat

Mammals - Utah prairie dog

Resident birds - Gunnison sage grouse

The Partners Program is currently working on habitat restoration and protection for three different wildlife conservation species. These species include the spotted frog, Bonneville cutthroat trout and Gunnison sage grouse. We are working to protect the existing habitat that already contains these species and expand the population by restoring or enhancing additional adjacent habitat.


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Wetland restoration project near the Great Salt Lake. Credit: USFWS.

Wetland restoration project near the Great Salt Lake. Credit: USFWS.

Riparian and In-Stream Habitat
These two habitats are required by native fish populations and many neotropical migrants, and are important to the residents of Utah for water quality. Both components are required for the system to function properly; one habitat cannot exist without the other.

Wetland Habitat
Although only 1.5% of the state is classified as wetlands, there are wetlands in Utah. The Great Salt Lake system provides critical migrational habitat as well as breeding habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl. Fifty percent of North America’s cinnamon teal population nest there. This system is home to the largest breeding population of white-faced ibis in North America.

Wetlands are also scattered throughout the western portion of Utah. Many of these wetlands are spring fed and are small oases in an area that typically receives 7 inches or less of annual precipitation. Two Species of Concern that inhabit these areas are the spotted frog and the least chub.

Ranchers own large tracts of property and contribute significantly to wildlife habitat. Rangeland is important for various resident wildlife such as Gunnison sage grouse, greater sage grouse, numerous neotropical migrants, and the Utah prairie dog.

Conservation Strategies

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Threats | Conservation Strategies | Future Needs

Monitoring stream for trout returns. Credit: USFWS.

Monitoring stream for trout returns. Credit: USFWS.

Threats - « Back to section top

When settlers moved west into Utah, they altered streams to provide water for irrigation of crops, haylands, and pastureland. The diversion of water from streams increased until entire streams were, and still are, dewatered during the summer months.

Dams were constructed to store water for irrigation and public drinking water. Entire streams have been diverted from one watershed to another so that the water storage potential in existing reservoirs could be increased. Water manipulation had an impact on riparian areas and instream habitat.

Streams were heavily utilized by sheep and cattle as they provided a water source, shade, and longer period of forage production.

Spraying willows with herbicides was a common practice to remove them from the streambanks. Settlers thought that trees were removing vast amounts of water from the streams. Woody vegetation was also eradicated to increase the amount of grass growing along the streambanks. These practices resulted in a loss of riparian habitat and stream degradation over time.

Loss of riparian and instream habitat was also experienced over the years as streams were straightened to improve flow and reduce flooding potential.

Currently, development is the greatest threat to Utah wetlands and the associated upland habitat around the Great Salt Lake. Eighty-five percent of the state’s population live within the area containing 75% of the wetlands. In the 2000 census, Utah was ranked fourth in overall percentage of population growth. The counties bordering the Great Salt Lake have increased in population by an average of 24%, and the development of more housing and industry has risen accordingly.

Upland habitat or rangeland decreased in diversity and health over the years. Invading cheatgrass caused a decline in range health. Fire suppression allowed various shrubs and trees to expand and compete with native grasses and forbes. Native rangeland has been plowed, sprayed, and planted with non-native species to increase production.

Conservation Strategies - « Back to section top

Duck clubs are very common around the Great Salt Lake, and a majority of the wetland preservation work has been done in conjunction with these clubs. The main focus of the Partners Program while working with the clubs has been to improve their water management capability to provide habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds by constructing additional dikes to subdivide existing impoundments and repairing existing dikes.

Another area for wetland work has been in the western part of Utah. These isolated wetlands are vital to numerous types of wildlife. One such species benefitting from this work is the spotted frog.

Riparian and In-Stream Habitat Work
This habitat type is extremely valuable for wildlife, livestock, and the general public. It provides a much needed water source as well as shade and canopy cover. Native fish are still found throughout numerous watersheds, and restoration efforts are focused within these areas.

Some of the problems associated with this habitat type are loss of the riparian vegetation and the degradation of streambanks resulting in increased water temperature and decreased water quality.

Many landowners have realized the benefits associated with a healthy stream system. Benefits such as reduced erosion, better water quality, improved fishing opportunities, and improved forage production are all sources of pride for landowners when they participate in stream and riparian restoration efforts. Riparian and in-stream restoration activities cost about $16 per linear foot to complete.

Rangeland/Upland Restoration Activities
Past management techniques for rangeland improvement included discing up sagebrush and seeding single species stands of crested wheatgrass. This practice is changing, and landowners are interested in re-seeding these areas to provide a wider variety of forbs and grasses. Many areas containing native sagebrush have become climax communities with limited species in the understory.

Mechanical treatment is one method used to reestablish a more diverse plant community in these areas. One such mechanical treatment used by a rancher involves the use of an aerator. The aerator crushes the old decadent sagebrush leaving behind residual litter and small flexible woody plants while established grasses and forbs. If there is limited plant variety in the understory, seeding can also be done in conjunction with the aerator.

Grass seedings are also being done around the Great Salt Lake to provide nesting habitat. Much of the current upland habitat is infested with cheatgrass and other noxious weeds. Grass seeding with native grass seed costs approximately $40 per acre.

FY 2017–2021 Targets: « Back to section top

  • 55 Private Landowner Agreements
  • 165 new conservation partnerships
  • 8,000 upland acres
  • 700 wetland acres
  • 7 riparian/river/stream miles
  • 12 fish passage structures

In Utah, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program’s main objective is to help landowners improve upon management techniques, learn new techniques, help them implement these techniques, and then monitor projects to see if they are attaining the goals of the landowners and the Fish and Wildlife Service.


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Project partners. Credit: USFWS.

Project partners. Credit: USFWS.

  • Key landowners
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service internal partners (including Refuges, Fish and Aquatic Conservation, Ecological Services, Migratory Birds)
  • Bear River Land Conservancy
  • Ducks Unlimited
  • Farm Bureau
  • Grand Staircase Escalante partnership
  • Intermountain West Joint Venture
  • Natural Resource Conservation Service
  • Rich County Coordinated Resource Management team
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Trout Unlimited
  • Utah Association of Conservation Districts
  • Utah Department of Food and Agriculture
  • Utah Division of Natural Resources
  • Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
  • Utah Partners for Conservation Development
  • Utah State University
  • West Box Elder Coordinated Resource Management team

Accomplishments »

Staff re-seeding. Credit: USFWS.

PFW staff and conservation partners discuss a successful riparian restoration project. Credit: USFWS.

FY 2020 Habitat Accomplishments

  • Upland Acres: 8,645 acres
  • Wetland Acres: 15 acres
  • River Miles: 2 miles
  • Fish Passage Structures: 0 Structures
  • Number of private landowner projects: 10

FY 1991-2020 Cumulative Habitat Accomplishments

  • Upland Acres: 85,429 acres
  • Wetland Acres: 14,847 acres
  • River Miles: 85 miles
  • Fish Passage Structures: 14 structures

The Utah Partners for Fish and Wildlife program has completed approximately 317 projects with private landowners throughout the state.

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Utah PFW Strategic Plan »

Contact Us »

State Coordinator

Karl Fleming
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
2155 West Forest Street
Brigham City, UT 84302
(435) 734-6434

Private Lands Biologist

Clint Wirick
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
340 North 600 East
Richfield, UT 84701
(435) 896-6441 ext. 141

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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.
Last modified: October 05, 2020
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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