The Nature Conservancy has purchased a 419-acre Utah property in order to help protect the Virgin River which runs through the Zion National Park.
Named Sheep Bridge, the land includes two miles of the Virgin River, a vital water source for Washington County residents.
The river has carved its way through the area, creating some breathtaking canyons for hikers to enjoy.
“It is actually one of the most pristine desert streams remaining in the Southwest,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Aquatic Manager Rick Fridell said. “Water in the desert is a pretty critical resource for wildlife as well as people.”
This is the third piece of land in the area which the Nature Conservancy have bought. The cost of the latest slice of land was reported to be $4.3 million. Its hoped that the investment will assist in preserving the ecosystem surrounding the canyon through which the river runs.
It’s an issue which many conservation groups battle to tackle – ensuring that the areas surrounding national parks, also part of the ecosystem – are also protected.
More protection for endangered species in the National Park
The purchase of the land adjacent to the Zion National Park and it’s subsequent protection is also good news for local wildlife. That includes 40 species which Utah recognizes as “sensitive”. Twelve of which are federally listed as being endangered. Among those are the endangered south-western willow flycatcher as well as migratory birds.
The Sheep Bridge land is also home to four of the Virgin River’s six at-risk native fish. These include the Virgin spinedace, flannelmouth sucker, speckled dace and desert sucker.
The Virginia-based Nature Conservancy was formed in 1951 and has protected more than 119,000,000 acres of land as well as thousands of kilometres of rivers all over the planet.
With over one million members, they are reportedly the largest nonprofit environmental agency in the Americas, per assets and revenue.
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Image credit: Zion National Park Utah / Nature Conservancy