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Wellsville farm on track to becoming a new Cache County conservation easement

The front page of a digitalized Herald Journal newspaper.
The Herald Journal

The Cache County Council approved the first phase of an application to keep farmland in Wellsville safe from development.

If the application is fully approved, it will make about 20 acres of farmland in Wellsville into a conservation easement, protecting it from future development.

The property of the application, named the Cooper Wellsville Open Space Application, is adjacent to U.S. Highway 89/91 near the mouth of Sardine Canyon. It is on the West side of the road and located in Wellsville. It is owned by Clair Cooper.

This application is part of the Cache County Open Space Bond that was passed in 2022. The bond established a fund of $20 million for the county to use for purchasing land and creating conservation easements to protect scenic vistas, preserve open lands near valley gateways, add trails, maintain agriculture, waterways, and wildlife habitat.

The land is currently being used for farming by Cooper, and he said that that the land will continue to be used for farming if it is turned into a conservation easement.

“I’m just a farmer and I like farm ground,” Cooper said. “If I could get this in, that would allow me to purchase more and get that in too. That’s the reason I’m doing it. I’d hate to see houses, you come out of the canyon and see 20 houses sitting there when you could have an open, pretty field.”

The Cooper Wellsville Open Space Application has already been through one round of review with the Cache Open Space Advisory Board. That board rated the property in each area for how well it fits the purpose of the open space bond.

The application was rated highly in protecting scenic vistas, preserving open lands near valley gateways, and maintaining agriculture. It rated relatively low in maintaining wildlife habitat and allowing public access, which the property currently does not have.

The Cache County Council members discussed the application and noted that a property does not have to score highly in all areas to be approved. In this case, they did not view the lack of public access or trails as an issue due to the high score in other areas.

“I feel like with where it is located and what we hoped to accomplish by passing the open space bond, it gets a really high mark for me,” Council member Sandi Goodlander said. “The public will get a great use from getting to drive past that every time they go in and out of the valley.”

According to the presentation given to the council about the property, about 20,000 people pass by the property by vehicle via US 89/91 every day, as reported by the Utah Department of Transportation.

The council unanimously approved the first phase of the Cooper Wellsville Open Space Application.

Next, the application will go back to the Cache Open Space Advisory Committee for another round of review before final approval by the Cache County Council. If final approval is granted, the area will be turned into a conservation easement.

According to council member Nolan Gunnell, he spoke with Cooper, and Cooper’s plan if he receives money from the open space grant for this project is to buy even more land and apply for the open space bond for that in the future as well.

“He’s going to take this money and buy more farm ground and try to keep it as more open space,” Gunnell said. “Not many people are saying that.”