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Health, Science & Environment

Morgan Council Considers Sage Grouse in Land Use Decision

SageGrouse01.jpg
Dan Bammes
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Male sage grouse strut on a lek in Morgan County, Utah

UPDATE:  The council vote Tuesday evening was 3 to 3, which means the change for the 27-hundred acre parcel did NOT pass.  The property owners plan to try again to win approval for the change at the next council meeting in two weeks.  They’re hoping all seven members of the council will be present for that meeting and that will break the tie. 

The Morgan County Council will look at a change in its master land use plan on Tuesday that could impact the future of the sage grouse in Utah.

At issue is whether to change the designation of about 27-hundred acres between East Canyon Reservoir and Highway 65 from “Natural Resources and Recreation” to “Master Planned Community.” The county’s planning commission has already approved the request from a group representing about fifty property owners in the area.

The property includes a lek, a mating and nesting area used by the greater sage grouse. The state of Utah has created a plan to protect the birds, hoping to avoid having them listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. That’s one of the issues Morgan County Council member Tina Kelley was thinking about as she prepared for tonight’s meeting.

"It’s going to be a really tough decision for all of us," Kelley tells KUER, "because we do recognize the need for economic development in the area. We recognize the right of private landowners to develop their property, but we also recognize that when they exercise their rights, they’re also going to impact the rights of others in the area.”

Kelley says there are other issues to consider as well, such as whether the county can support water, sewer and other utilities for any housing and resort facilities that might be built there.

Conservation groups are urging the council to reject the change in land use designation to protect the sage grouse. Some property owners say they’re open to the idea of a conservation easement that would preserve the value of their land as well as the sage grouse.

The council meeting was set to begin at 5:00 p.m. at the county courthouse in Morgan. 

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