A three-way land swap being called a victory for good government will add $6.6 million to Utah public schools’ trust fund, increase the state’s wildlife management areas by several thousand acres and help complete the Mountain View Corridor highway.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert called it a “win-win-win.”
“It will raise money for schoolchildren, protect valuable wildlife habitat and give the public improved access to the west side of the Salt Lake Valley,” Herbert said in a press statement.
The land swap’s story begins in 1950 when the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources acquired 150 acres of federal property that Remington Arms once used to test munitions in the western reaches of the Salt Lake Valley.
The gift came with strings that prohibited DWR from selling the land, which was never well-suited for the agency’s mission. So it has been used as a public shooting range at 5600 West and 2100 South for decades.
Now, under a three-way interagency land exchange, UDOT will use part of that land for a one-mile section of the Mountain View Corridor, DWR is adding more than 7,000 acres to its system of wildlife management areas and the state’s permanent school fund gets the multimillion-dollar infusion of cash.
Because of the deed restrictions, the deal could only work with the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) acting as a middle man, according to SITLA Associate Director Kim Christy.
Under a law passed in 1986, DWR could trade its Remington land for land elsewhere with superior wildlife values. UDOT wanted the land, but it had little to offer in exchange. Meanwhile SITLA, whose mission is to manage state lands to provide revenues to its educational beneficiaries, holds plenty of wildlife habitat.
“It’s a good opportunity to meet our mandate to monetize several low-producing surface assets at fair market value that are undevelopable due to sensitive wildlife concerns,” Christy said.
The agency identified about a dozen sections spread around the state that are within or next to DWR wildlife management areas that it could give in exchange for about half the old Remington parcel — a 10-to-1 trade in acreage.
“These lands are important now, and they will provide enormous benefits for wildlife and outdoor recreation for years to come. Conserving these properties makes Utah a better place to live,” said DWR Director Greg Sheehan.
To conclude the deal, SITLA sold 72 acres at the shooting range stretching between 2100 and 1300 South to UDOT for $6.6 million.