Town & County

Summit Land Conservancy closes on 96 acres in the Kamas Valley

There is no public access to the property, and the easement does not require public use or access

MARION, Utah – The Summit Land Conservancy has officially closed on 96-acres of prime farmland in the Kamas Valley Meadows, as of Tuesday.

Located in the unincorporated town of Marion, Andrus Farm is the first of several properties in the Kamas Valley that the Conservancy is working to permanently conserve, protecting an important aquifer that feeds the Weber River and ultimately the Great Salt Lake. The preservation of Andrus Farm supports the Kamas City and Summit County General Plans, the Sandhill Crane Management Plan, and the Weber River Watershed Plan, which aims to address growing water needs and declining water availability within the Weber River Watershed.

Andrus Farm, located between Oakley and Kamas at the foot of the Uinta Mountain Range, is entirely surrounded by other agricultural lands that make up the scenic Kamas Valley Meadows. The Weber and Provo rivers, along with five creeks, cross the Kamas Valley Meadows contributing to the invaluable aquifer and rich fertile soils of the area. Two intermittent streams from Thorn Creek run through the Andrus Farm property, and the open pastureland serves as important wintering ground and migration corridors for mule deer and elk. The 96-acres are visible from State Route 32 and contribute greatly to the viewshed of the community. There is no public access to the property, and the easement does not require public use or access.

Since 2011, Summit Land Conservancy has been talking with the Andrus family about saving their property. Andrus Farm has been in agricultural use by the family for over 100 years, and today, the landowners are drawn to regenerative agriculture practices. The current operators have implemented the newest methods for cattle grazing to increase soil health, ecological sustainability, and carbon sequestration on their land. Irene Ruf’s family owns the property and her daughter, Michelle Howells, manages the operation. Both women wanted to see the property continue in agricultural use and be preserved as open space in the Kamas Valley in perpetuity.

“The land is beloved by all of my brothers and sisters and cousins, as my grandfather bought it in 1914. My daughter Michelle is now the fourth-generation that has loved and worked the land,” Ruf said in a statement. “It’s just precious. It’s home.”

In November 2021, Summit County residents passed a $50 Million General Obligation Bond to purchase passive and active open space, conservation easements, and construct recreational amenities. Andrus Farm marks the first conservation easement acquisition made by the Summit County Open Space Advisory Committee (“OSAC”) which was created to provide recommendations to the County Manager. In total, Summit County provided $500,000 to preserve the farm, combining $250,000 of GO Bond funds with $250,000 Eastern Summit County Agricultural Preservation (ESAP) funds.

“The Andrus family farm holds a special place in Summit County’s conservation journey as it marks the inaugural contribution from the 2021 GO Bond Funds,” Jessica Kirby, land and natural resources director, said in the statement. “The recent closing of the conservation easement is an occasion to be celebrated. Summit County congratulates both the Andrus family and the Summit Land Conservancy for their unwavering commitment to forever conservation of Summit County’s agricultural heritage.”

In addition to County funds, the Conservancy secured federal grant money through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (“NRCS”) Agricultural Land Easement (“ALE”) program, as well as private foundations including the Willard Eccles Foundation. The project was also made possible through the For the Future Fund, which the Conservancy publicly launched in May 2023 to save more land and save land faster.

“With ever increasing pressures for development throughout the County, the Kamas Valley is a vital piece to the Weber River Watershed and we’re thankful to the Andrus family for their decision to keep their property as open agricultural land forever,” Cheryl Fox, CEO of Summit Land Conservancy, said in the statement.

In 2023, more than $22 million was granted to the Conservancy by the federal government for conservation projects in the Kamas Valley. The application was one of more than 80 awarded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. A keystone project in the area, Andrus Farm has helped open the door for similar projects throughout the Kamas Valley Meadows. The RCPP grant will be used to save agricultural lands that are critical pieces of the Kamas Valley aquifer and wetlands for future generations.

Donations to save future lands may be made here.

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