Sage Grouse Central to Morgan County Land Use Controversy

Aug 13, 2014

  Conservationists say a change in Morgan County’s master land use plan could have a big impact on the future of the greater sage grouse in Utah.  A potential resort development is the subject of a hearing planned for Thursday evening.

About fifty private property owners are asking the Morgan County Planning Commission to make a change in its future land use map.  They have 27-hundred acres that extend from East Canyon Reservoir toward Henefer along State Highway 65.  They want the designation changed from “Natural Resources and Recreation” to “Master Planned Community,” with the goal of eventually building a mixed-use resort that would include housing, retail development and boating facilities.

The area includes a sage grouse lek – a natural nesting area where male grouse strut in the springtime as they’re seeking their mates.  University of Utah biology professor Lynn Bohs is one of many voices objecting to the plan because of its potential impact on the birds.

“I don’t know what will happen to them if they destroy the lek by development," Bohs tells KUER. "Even if it’s not developed right on top of the lek site, I don’t know what’ll happen.  It may not be attractive to the birds anymore, and that’s their breeding site.”

Glen Burton is one of the property owners pushing for the change.  He says they’re still a long way from starting work on any development, but he thinks the opponents are missing the point.

“We are the property owners," Burton said in an interview.  "We are the people that’s invested in it, and that’s our property rights.  It’s private property.  It comes down to the issue of government versus private property.”

Burton says there are ways a compromise might be worked out, such as relocating the birds or establishing a conservation easement.

The hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at the county courthouse in Morgan.