Renewed Hunter Access Agreement Reached
The Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) have renewed their Hunter Access Agreement with the State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA). The contract keeps 3.4 million acres of trust lands open to hunters and anglers and those interested in viewing wildlife and runs through 2032.
Unlike public lands, trust lands are held in trust for state institutions designated by Congress. Nearly 96 percent of Utah’s trust Lands are managed for the financial benefit of the K – 12 public education system, with the remaining lands benefiting Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind, state hospitals, colleges, universities, and other state institutions.
“Utah is a public lands state and we are committed to doing everything we can to make sure these trust lands remain open to the public,” said DNR Executive Director Mike Styler. “By working together collaboratively with SITLA we have been able to secure seamless access to great locations for hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing.”
Under the agreement, trust land beneficiaries receive an annual payment of $1.8 million for access to the land. The Utah State Legislature has committed $1 million per year of ongoing general funds and the DWR will pay the remaining balance. The current contract also provides for an annual rate of increase of 3.5 percent for DWR’s portion of the payment. For the past 20 years, DWR and SITLA have entered into similar Hunter Access agreements with the previous MOA expiring last month.
“We appreciate DNR, DWR, and the Utah Legislature for their efforts to preserve public hunter access while securing fair market value for the use of trust lands, which SITLA is constitutionally required to achieve,” said SITLA Director David Ure.
Paula Plant, acting director for the Utah State Board of Education School Children’s Trust also applauded the agreement stating, “We are grateful for the collaboration of all involved to facilitate continued public hunting access to school trust lands. It is a fair agreement that will benefit sportsmen and women, and Utah’s school children.”
The $1.8 million agreed-upon payment is based upon trust lands that qualify for commercial-value hunting. The agreement assures that SITLA will prohibit leasing of its lands for commercial hunting purposes, which otherwise would preclude public access to many premier hunting areas throughout the state.
DWR also received a 20-year extension on two grazing permits it currently holds on about 90,000 acres of trust lands in the Book Cliffs area, located in southern Uintah County and northern Grand County. The grazing permit will help maintain available forage for wildlife, including elk, deer and bison.