Utah’s grand plan to preserve a wildlife and hunting haven on Tabby Mountain could fall prey to a private buyer

The Utah Department of Natural Resources hopes to acquire 28,400 acres of state trust lands surrounding Tabby Mountain, pictured here rising to the west of Tabiona and the Turnbow family’s dairy operation along the Duchesne River. With the goal of establishing a state wildlife area or forest, Gov. Gary Herbert is seeking a $35 million appropriation toward a deal. But a proposed sale was put on hold while trust lands officials angle for higher offers./ Photo courtesy of Carol Turnbow

 

Utah officials are angling hard to use some of a projected $1.3 billion budget surplus to acquire a large undeveloped tract of state trust land in northeastern Utah, revered for its wooded wildlife habitat that supports some of the finest big game hunting anywhere in the West.

The idea is to safeguard public access to Tabby Mountain and manage these highlands west of Tabiona as a state forest or wildlife area.

But the state’s effort could now backfire after its petition to purchase 28,000 acres opened a competitive bidding process that could put the land in the hands of private owners, who would be free to develop it, evict ranchers who graze livestock there or block public access.

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