The Cinnamon Creek Wildlife Management Area in Cache County is pictured Nov. 15, 2021. Improvements to the area, which the state acquired last year, are among 91 projects funded for the next fiscal year thanks to the income generated by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. . (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)
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SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 100 habitat restoration projects are set to receive funding through a portion of Utah’s record hunting and fishing license sales in recent years.
The Utah Division Wildlife Habitat Council has approved just over $4 million in permitting funds for 91 different habitat projects statewide in the next fiscal year, which begins in July.
State wildlife officials said Wednesday they were four “high priority” projects, such as improvements to the recently acquired Cinnamon Creek Wildlife Management Area, reconstruction of two diversions of irrigation that currently prevent fish from connecting to the Blacksmith Fork and Logan rivers, a new weir at Navajo Lake after a pair of dam failures in recent years, and a plan to seed more aspen to improve the mountain’s ecosystem Monroe.
The division’s habitat council dates back to 1995. It has, on average, spent about $2.5 million annually on projects over the past 15 years.
This year’s rise stems from record sales that date back to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reported an increase in hunting and fishing licenses last year, with a record 708,272 licenses sold between March 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021.
The pace has slowed down somewhat but remains very high. The division sold 510,183 hunting, fishing or combination licenses between March 1, 2021 and March 31, division officials told KSL.com. The more sales, the more money is made available for conservation projects.
The council had previously allocated about $37.6 million to 1,326 people in the 15 years leading up to this year’s funding decision. According to division officials, this has helped improve and restore approximately 442 square miles of land-based wildlife habitat and just over 1,833 miles of streams and rivers. It even helped the state acquire approximately 44 square miles of habitat land now under permanent conservation easements at that time.
The state was able to raise a record $4.2 million through its Utah Conservation Permit Program last month. These are permits specifically assigned to conservation groups that auction off permits that accrue to conservation programs and wildlife research.
Tyler Thompson, director of the Watershed Restoration Initiative program for the Utah Department of Natural Resources, told KSL.com last month that he believes the conservation permit record was set because people saved money on trips they would otherwise have taken but were not due. to the pandemic, as they spent more time on public land when it became one of the only outdoor options available.
There is no sign of this stopping, although other leisure options are available again. And as there is an all-time high in interest in outdoor recreation, so too is the need to conserve the lands that people travel on.
Daniel Eddington, habitat conservation coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said hunting and fishing licenses are ultimately crucial to finding funds to meet this need.
“We greatly appreciate the hunters and anglers who are the backbone of wildlife conservation,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “Anyone who purchases a hunting and fishing license helps fund many crucial habitat restoration projects that help maintain fish and wildlife populations for future generations to enjoy.”