Utah Lake is one of the largest naturally occurring freshwater lakes in the western United States. Its wetlands have long been recognized locally and nationally for their critical importance to fish and wildlife resources. The Utah Lake wetland ecosystem is important as a breeding area and stopover for many migratory birds in the Pacific Flyway. Approximately 226 species of birds are known to use Utah Lake wetlands, as well as 49 mammalian species, 16 species of amphibians and reptiles and 18 species of fish. Utah Lake also provides feeding areas for birds nesting on the Great Salt Lake.
The Utah Lake Wetland Preserve (ULWP) located in Utah County southwest of Provo, is a network of wetland and interspersed upland habitats near the southern end of Utah Lake. The Central Utah Project Completion Act (CUPCA) of 1992 authorized development of the ULWP to partially mitigate for past and anticipated future impacts of Central Utah Project development. CUPCA authorized the Mitigation Commission to work cooperatively with Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire private land and water rights from willing sellers within the ULWP boundary.
The Mitigation Commission began acquiring lands for the ULWP in 1996 and entered into a series of interim management agreements with UDWR to manage the federally owned properties. The Preserve consists of two units: Goshen Bay and Benjamin Slough and encompasses about 21,750 acres. About 15,782 acres are under management of project cooperators (Mitigation Commission, 7,200 acres; Bureau of Land Management, 4,150 acres; State of Utah, 4,500 acres (most of this total are open water at normal lake elevation, e.g. Goshen Bay, and is administered by Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands); and Utah County, 19 acres).
Enironmental Assessment and Management Plan
In accordance with CUPCA and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Mitigation Commission and Department of the Interior are preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA) to analyze the following:
- The transfer of federal lands in the ULWP acquired per CUPCA to the State of Utah
- A comprehensive management plan that will guide future management of the ULWP
A draft EA has been prepared and we are soliciting input from other agencies, interested parties, and the public. The comment period on the draft EA will last through February 14, 2022. In lieu of in-person public meetings, an interactive virtual public meeting website has been set up to share information, solicit input and provide a forum to answer relevant questions about the draft EA. The document is available and comments on it may be submitted through the project website at:
To allow the lands transfer to the State of Utah, CUPCA requires the United States to enter into an agreement under which UDWR will manage the ULWP to meet the substantive requirements of the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966. That agreement will include a comprehensive management plan that must be developed in consultation with UDWR and the Secretary of the Interior.
The Plan will guide management of the ULWP by describing goals, objectives, and strategies for establishing and administering the preserve. It would ensure compliance with state regulations and provide UDWR with a 15-year management plan for conservation of plant resources, upland and aquatic wildlife, including migratory birds and their related habitats, and public access for compatible wildlife-dependent recreation. The Plan would also establish the nature and types of vegetation management strategies, restoration activities, potential locations for administrative sites, and compatible wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities.