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Critical Lands Planning Background

The State of Utah is an incredible place!  Its contrasting landscapes provide water, food and fiber, recreation, and a number of intrinsic values to residents and visitors.  Utah's population is rapidly growing along the urbanized areas of the Wasatch Front.  The region's mountains and lakes constrain the potential real estate market, which leads to a demand for lands on steep slopes, in floodplains, in habitat corridors, and near wetlands.  In spite of this demand, it is critical that some lands perform their natural function - even in areas of high demand.  It is crucial that proactive efforts are made to conserve the State's critical lands.

One reason why conservation is so important is because the end-game of poor land and ecosystem management is federal intervention.  For example, as habitat is diminished, wildlife species dwindle and are added to the Federal Endangered Species List.  Once they become listed, the federal government places substantial restrictions on the State's lands.  This can often be avoided with proactive planning.

The lack of planning for critical lands can also influence the State's economy.  For example, a transportation infrastructure project that is likely to impact wetlands must show the federal government that the loss of wetland acreage can be mitigated by essentially moving the wetland to a comparable or better area.  The "replacement" area will need to be located in an area that can function as a natural wetland.

Effective critical land conservation creates amenities with a number of benefits.  Preserved lands often improve the taxable value of adjacent properties.  They provide quality-of-life amenities that attract and retain "footloose" industries.  They also insure the health, safety, and welfare of the region because they safeguard drinking water, clean the air, stabilize slopes, prevent flooding, etc.

In most cases, local governments have this STEWARDSHIP responsibility.  The State can provide assistance, and play a coordination role.  State agencies work to preserve critical lands in their sphere of responsibility — this project unites their efforts.


Critical lands planning is not just concerned with preservation of natural systems, but also with the mitigation of natural disasters.

The idea above may be a little extreme, but consider Washington County below.


Utah Automated Geographic Reference Center Quality Growth Commission Utah State Extension Envision Utah Utah Department of Natural Resources
For more information,
please contact:
Laura Ault, GOPB