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Island Donation To State Protects Habitat, Creates Recreation Opportunities

Charles Uibel

An undeveloped island in the Great Salt Lake was donated to the state earlier this month, providing new recreation opportunities and protecting more wildlife habitat.

Fremont Island was donated to the state by an anonymous donor. Prior to the donation, this small and barren island was privately owned, all the way back to when Utah gained statehood.

“As of two Fridays ago, it's now under state ownership for the first time. The recent conservation buyer bought the island with the with the hope of transferring it to the state for protection and preservation.” said Laura Vernon, the Great Salt Lake coordinator with the Utah Division of Forestry.

Vernon feels having the island under state protection, in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy, is another step toward protecting wildlife habitat.

“Birds pass through the area there on the island, or in around the shores of the island, millions of shorebirds and waterfowl annually. So, having that be a safe place…where their habitat is protected, in perpetuity is, is really valuable for the state and for, for the ecosystem in the area.” Vernon said.

In addition to bird habitat, the island is home to other wildlife. To determine exactly what’s there and what’s critical to protect, the state plans to inventory the animals and plants present on the island.

While the focus is on keeping the island wild, Fremont Island is open to the public. However, the island lacks amenities, and Vernon warned that the island is remote, so those planning to visit should come prepared.
“Public access is definitely at your own risk and should be, you know, much caution should be taken if you're going to venture out there.” Vernon said. “Access isn't easy. It's definitely something that necessitates planning, and making sure you're prepared if you're going to head out there.”

Aimee Van Tatenhove is a science reporter at UPR. She spends most of her time interviewing people doing interesting research in Utah and writing stories about wildlife, new technologies and local happenings. She is also a PhD student at Utah State University, studying white pelicans in the Great Salt Lake, so she thinks about birds a lot! She also loves fishing, skiing, baking, and gardening when she has a little free time.