The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit group that helps protect critical wildlife habitat, has purchased land stretching for 6.5 miles along the Strawberry River in Duchesne County.

Dave Livermore, director of the group's Great Basin Regional Office in Salt Lake City, said 1,730 acres were purchased for $1,019,000 from Dynamic American Corp.This is the largest financial commitment ever made by the conservancy for a Utah project. When added to other land bought in July 1987, it raises the total purchased by the group along the Strawberry River to 2,430 acres.

"It is a part of a long-range effort to preserve a pristine 18-mile stretch of river reaching from Soldier Creek Dam to the Strawberry Pinnacles," Livermore said.

The latest addition includes 6.5 miles of "outstanding riparian habitat along one of Utah's most productive stream fisheries and the first Utah stream ever to benefit from dry-fly-only regulations," he said.

According to the conservancy, the deal was accomplished by a partnership involving that group, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

The bureau, working with the division, will repurchase the Strawberry properties at cost from the conservancy in one year. Money for this will come from Central Utah Project wildlife-mitigation money.

The bureau then intends to transfer ownership to the Division of Wildlife Resources, which will manage the 6.5-mile river section as a fly-fishing stream. That is supposed to ensure public access to the area and protection of the wildlife habitat, which is used by birds, non-game species and larger mammals.

"The Nature Conservancy has ranked all 50 states in terms of their ecological significance, and Utah is No. 5," Livermore said.

"By acting now, we are preserving a natural legacy for future generations to enjoy."