Special protection of a desert salt marsh, containing some 50 springs three miles east of Gandy, has been proposed by the Bureau of Land Management.

A proposal that 2,270 acres be designated as an area of critical environmental concern was published in the Federal Register. Such a designation would require management to protect the resources and prevent damage to important wildlife, fish, scenic, cultural, historic and other values.The marsh is a series of natural wetlands without dikes or man-made developments, and grazing hasn't had much impact on the springs. Peter Hovingh, a University of Utah biologist who has studied the West Desert, concludes that the area is a "complete desert ecosystem." He says springs percolate slowly into the wetlands, forming the Gandy Salt March.

Ducks, geese and other birds frequent the wetlands, and wild horses drink from the springs. There are species of non-game fish, frogs, butterflies, leaches and snails. Some are protected by designation as threatened or endangered species.

An effort about five years ago to designate the marsh an area of critical environment wasn't successful, according to Rex Rowley, manager of the BLM's House Range Resource Area. He said government officials would like to see the designation because there are some sensitive species of concern.

Nature Conservancy, a Virginia-based group that buys, sells and trades land throughout the world to ensure biological diversity and environmental protection, is supportive of the move to get the designation for the marsh. Rowley said that group has been working with a private landowner in an effort to purchase some of the land on the edge of the salt marsh lake. The range manager added that the BLM expects to complete a management plan by the end of the fiscal year, emphasizing that the area is not being considered for wilderness designation.