SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. — Several large wildlife conservation and habitat projects have been funded after more than $3.1 million was committed during the annual conservation permit project funding meeting held on April 1.
The Utah Conservation Permit Program was launched in 1980 in an effort to increase funding for conservation projects throughout Utah. Each year, the Utah Wildlife Board designates a small percentage of limited-entry and once-in-a-lifetime hunting permits as “conservation and expo permits.”
The conservation projects that are funded by these special permits are proposed to Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative (WRI), a Utah Department of Natural Resources (DWI) partnership-based program launched in 2006 to improve high-priority watersheds throughout the state. Proposals due around the first week of January each year, and anyone can submit a proposal.
After reviewing all the proposals, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and WRI committees decide which habitat and conservation projects are of the highest priority and then give the conservation groups an opportunity to review all the projects. Those groups then decide during the annual meeting which projects to fund.
“These funds and projects help improve wildlife habitat and watershed health throughout the state, leading to healthier and more abundant wildlife populations and increased opportunity for the hunting public,” WRI Program Director Tyler Thompson said.
During the April 1 meeting, DWR biologists presented 95 projects, which were then funded by the conservation groups in attendance. The groups assessed the individual projects’ goals, benefits, and costs, and then selected the projects they wanted to support. The project that received the highest funding from the conservation groups is a habitat restoration project that will improve the summer feeding range for deer and other big game animals in the Manti area. Over $192,000 was contributed.
The second-highest-funded project raised $129,000 for using helicopters to capture bighorn sheep throughout Utah during the winter months in order to perform health assessments and gather important data about how the populations are doing. Visit the DWR website for more details about why biologists do this yearly big game captures. Bighorn sheep release on Antelope Island:
Most of these habitat projects take about one year to plan and complete. Funding for these projects becomes available July 1, but many of the seeding and habitat projects are conducted in the fall, during prime planting season.
The conservation permits are offered to conservation and sportsmen’s groups who then auction them at banquets, fundraisers, and other events. The conservation groups provide 90% of the money raised from these permit sales toward conservation and research projects like habitat enhancement, wildlife transplants, aerial surveys, and deer survival studies. The remaining 10% of the proceeds are retained by the conservation groups to help cover administrative costs.
The expo permits are not auctioned, but rather, are offered once each year through a drawing held at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City. Utahns and nonresidents who attend the expo can apply for these permits. There is a $5 application fee and part of that fee goes to the conservation groups hosting the expo to help pay for costs associated with hosting and running the permit drawing. The other portion of the application fee is used for conservation efforts.
How do these permits benefit Utah hunters?
Since 2001, conservation permits have generated more than $59 million for conservation work in Utah. If not for the revenue from these permits, Utah would have to substantially raise hunting permit fees for residents or offer a larger percentage of high-cost permits to nonresidents. The DWR currently issues about 90% of Utah’s limited-entry permits to Utah hunters through its hunt drawings.
The conservation groups that participated in the funding meeting included:
- Mule Deer Foundation
- National Wild Turkey Federation
- Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
- Safari Club International
- Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife
- Utah Archery Association
- Utah Wild Sheep Foundation