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Front Page » June 15, 2004 » Local News » A Hidden Treasure
Published 4,632 days ago

A Hidden Treasure

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Staff Writer

Field Trip to the Wilcox Acquisition in Range Creek

Spectacular views are typical of the area.

Derris Jones, Utah State Division of Wildlife Resources area supervisor, led a procession of visitors through Range Creek recently. The Wilcox Ranch conservation easement was acquired by the DWR to oversee the management of the easement according to the stipulations set forth by the Wilcox family.

Ray "Budge" and Pearl McPherson Wilcox worked their ranch for many years. Their sons, Waldo and Don, were taught the love of the area by working here also. Waldo was very instrumental in the acquisition of the property. The property is surrounded by wilderness study area, and the acquisition of the easement is very important.

The findings of the U.S. Congress were that the lands within the Wilcox Ranch are prime habitat for wild turkeys, eagles, hawks, bears, cougars, elk, deer, bighorn sheep and many other important species. It was also decided that Range Creek, which runs through the property, could become a blue ribbon trout stream.

From the historical standpoint, the area is pristine and undisturbed with relation to the archeological resources. Ancient peoples inhabited the canyon and surrounding areas, and left behind invaluable artifacts. These sites remain exactly as they were in ancient days. There has been absolutely no disturbance by contemporary man.

This acquisition will benefit the people of the U.S. by preserving and enhancing important wildlife habitat and ensuring access to lands of the Bureau of Land Management. As an added benefit, there is also the preservation of priceless archeological and cultural resources.

Funds for the purchase of this acquisition came on a 50/50 basis. One half of the purchase price was donated by the federal government and one half from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The DWR will begin the process of creating a management plan that complies with the stipulations set forth by the Wilcox family upon the sale of the property. At the present time, public access to the property is by horseback or foot traffic only.

It was stipulated in the sale agreement that the management of this property would be consistent with the goals of Utah's Forest Legacy Program. That program states the benefits to the public would be: providing regulated public access to wildlife resources; preventing future conversions of forest land and forest resources; protecting and enhancing water quality and water supplies; protecting wildlife habitat and maintaining habitat connectivity and related values to ensure biodiversity; protecting riparian areas; maintaining and restoring natural ecosystem functions; and maintaining forest sustainability and the cultural and economic vitality of rural communities.

Emery County Commissioner Gary Kofford explores an old cabin at the Wilcox Ranch.

The purpose of this easement is to ensure that the property will be retained predominantly in its natural, forested, open space condition and to prevent any use of the property that will significantly impair or interfere with the conservation values of the property.

The bulk of the property lies within the boundaries of Emery County, so the Emery County Public Lands Department, along with Jones, led the field trip as an information gathering session to begin the process of creating a management plan for the area. Emery County Commissioner Gary Kofford, public lands director Ray Petersen, Floyd Johnson, BLM, Donna Sackett of Senator Bill Bennett's office, and many council members and Emery County residents, toured the acquisition site.

Petersen handed out maps of the area and copies of the easement agreement. Armed with this information, the group began the all day trek that allowed views of breathtaking beauty and thoughts of how to allow access and comply with the stipulations of the purpose of the agreement.

At the ranchhouse complex, the group met with Duncan Metcalf, University of Utah professor, who leads a field school each summer. Metcalf explained that this is the third summer he has brought students to the area. Their mission is to inventory the archeological sites in the canyon. There are students from the U of U, College of Eastern Utah and Salt Lake Community College working and studying for two months at the Wilcox Ranch. Part of their duties will be to reclaim the culinary water system in the complex and restore its functionality.

"At the present time, we have inventoried and mapped more than 140 archeological sites in the immediate area of the ranch complex. We've been mapping and using GPS to do the inventory ," said Metcalf.

"We are very fortunate to be working in such a pristine area," he said.

With the scenery fresh on their minds, and the value of this acquisition very apparent, all of the group had much to think about and a lot of individual ideas.

The management planning process will soon begin, and the public is encouraged to become involved.

The DWR will keep the public lands council updated.

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