The Bureau of Land Management intends to trade land with ranchers in Tooele County's Skull Valley region, in a swap that would total 32 square miles.
The BLM's goals in the exchange include its acquiring important water rights and wetlands needed to enhance waterfowl habitat at Horseshoe Spring, as well as private land on the order or inside the Cedar Mountains Wilderness Study Area.The area is across the Stansbury Mountains from Tooele, but in a direct line it's about 20 to 25 miles west of Tooele. The marsh sometimes is host to wintering bald eagles.
Altogether, the BLM would get water rights to springs that amount to 7 cubic feet per second, plus 9,700 acres.
On the other hand, the Skull Valley Co., based in Salt Lake City, would take over about 10,000 acres of federal land. Howard Hedrick, area manager of the BLM's Pony Express Resource Area, said this is valley bottom land "that they can use to consolidate their existing land base, and therefore run a more efficient cattle operation."
Hedrick believes both the public and the cattle company would benefit from the boundary adjustment.
"The thing that makes the difference is we're getting a little over 7 cfs of water," Hedrick said. "So we're getting about 56 gallons a second from the springs, and that's an enormous amount of water."
The water rights and land traded would be stack up to roughly comparable value for both sides, he said.
Patricia Johnston, BLM wildlife biologist, said if the trade is carried out, the BLM will have complete ownership of the land and water necessary to carry out long-range habitat improvements.
"We can now proceed to impound water to create ponds, treat vegetation to improve cover and food, and do all the other things we have designed to upgrade and transform Horseshoe Springs into a top-notch, year-round waterfowl area."
The project became a priority when the Great Salt Lake began flooding thousands of acres of freshwater marshes along its shores. Horseshoe Spring is only 12 miles from the lake, but it's high enough to be above the lake's likely flood plain.
The BLM has prepared a draft environmental assessment, for which the public comment period ends on Jan. 13, 1989. Anyone interested in the trade is invited to pick up a copy of the assessment at the BLM's Salt Lake District office, 2370 S. 2300 West.
Those with comments are invited to write to or call the district office, 524-5348. After the comment period ends, a final assessment will be prepared.
Hedrick told the Deseret News that if the trade is still a good one, in light of all the comments and analyses, it may go through in the late spring.