An environmental group has purchased a 3,200-acre chunk of private property in the Deep Creek Mountains near the Utah-Nevada border.

The property, called "The Basin," will be traded to the Bureau of Land Management, so it can be added to the surrounding wilderness study area. It was purchased by the Nature Conservancy, an organization that buys land to help rescue threatened habitat.This is one of Utah's most significant wildlife areas, said Dave Livermore, head of the group's office in Salt Lake City. The land, in the middle of a Bureau of Land Management wilderness study area, is important to the reintroduction of bighorn sheep.

If it were developed, it would seriously compromise wildlife habitat of the Deep Creeks, he said.

But the purchase almost didn't take place. It took an 11th hour interest-free loan extended on a charitable basis by the George S. And Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation of Salt Lake city to bring it about, Livermore said.

Former Gov. Scott M. Matheson, a member of the conservancy's Utah advisory board, wrote to the Eccles Foundation seeking help, just as an option to buy the land was about to expire. As a result, the conservation came through with the loan.

"The preservation of Deep Creek Basin has been a top priority of our office for years," Livermore said.

Cecil Garland, the famous environmentalist rancher who lives nearly in the shadow of the Deep Creeks at Callao, Juab County, said Americans care about the environment.

The Conservancy is a non-profit group that works to acquire outstanding natural areas. It is supported by 450,000 members, 100 foundations and 400 corporate sponsors. The group owns and manages more than 1,000 properties, making up what it calls the largest private wildlife sanctuary system in the world.