Rare flower and farmlands benefit from new preserve

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 26 2013 1:00 p.m. MST

LOGAN — Farmland and a rare flower will receive protection with the establishment of a new preserve in Cache County that sets aside 30 acres of land.

The Mendon Meadow Preserve was set up by the Bear River Land Conservancy through money provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to offset habitat that has been lost for a rare orchid called Ute ladies' tresses, which has threatened status under the Endangered Species Act.

The conservancy organization is the local partner that has been working with the federal agency to counter losses of orchid habitat due to construction projects in the northern Utah region.

Prior to its 2008 discovery at the property, the orchid was not known to exist in Cache County, according to the federal agency.

Dave Rayfield, the conservancy's board chairman, said the preserve helps the conservancy meet two of its highest priorities.

"Our mission includes protecting critical habitats, but we are also committed to conserving part of our rapidly disappearing agricultural base," he said.

The conservancy has been working on the project for about a year, which came about fairly seamlessly, Rayfield said.

"It was one of the quickest and smoothest ones we've ever had," he said. "Usually they take years."

The orchid needs an environment that includes wetlands with sparse vegetation to thrive.

Wet meadow habitat, however, is diminishing as more and more farmers are moving from flood irrigation techniques to sprinklers, Rayfield said.

The conservancy organization and other groups involved in the project said proper agricultural management of the property will foster protections for the orchid and also provide habitat for wading birds and amphibians.

"It will have a farming use and be managed correctly to protect the orchid," Rayfield said. "We have a little balance there on the land, which is nice."

The Bear River Land Conservancy is one of 1,500 qualified land trusts in the United States, serving Box Elder, Cache, and Rich counties in northern Utah. Some of its projects have included working with PacifiCorp and other partners for conservation easements on the Bear River.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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