The Utah State Land Board voted unanimously to have a special committee review what it called a "pilot project" for a Cooperative Resources Management Program.
That committee, made up of individuals from the board, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Board of Big Game Control and the Wildlife Board, will review a request from a private landowner, Greg Cunningham, to turn state lands into a private hunting preserve.Cunningham, whose family owns 7,300 acres of land in an area called Went Ridge in the roadless area of the Book Cliffs south of Vernal, asked the board for control of 53,000 acres of adjoining state land.
What Cunningham proposed is to take control of the land and offer guided deer, elk and bear hunts to a limited number of hunter, similar to the way hunting activities are handled at the Deseret Livestock property near Evanston, Wyo. Under the plan, Cunningham would take charge of 10 elk permits, charge eight of those hunters a fee of $5,500 to hunt, and offer the remaining two to Utah hunters at no charge.
A large number of sportsmen are opposed to the move. It would, said one hunter from Price, "close off some of the best elk hunting in the state."
The Land Board is looking at the project as a source of revenue for Utah's education system. Cunningham proposed returning 5 percent of the fees to the state the first two years, 8 percent the next two and 10 percent the last year of the pilot lease.
The committee will meet April 25 at the DWR offices to make recommendations and offer alternatives to the board.