When a developer threatened to bid on 1,280 acres of school trust land in the redrock country northeast of Moab, Peter Lawson and Anne Wilson laid out $1.3 million to preserve the mouth of Mary Jane Canyon.
prospect of having this canyon we love so much have houses run
through it was more than we could stand,” says Lawson. The
300-acre Professor Valley Ranch has been in Wilson’s family
for more than 30 years; her father, Bates Wilson, was the first
superintendent of Canyonlands National Park.
with Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands
Administration (SITLA), says an individual purchase this large for
conservation is “unusual, but not unheard of.” SITLA
manages 3.5 million acres of land in Utah, which it leases and
sells to raise money for schools. Traditionally, the agency has
favored resource extraction and development deals. But conservation
sales have increased in the last several years, especially in the
Colorado River Corridor, where The Nature Conservancy has purchased
107,000 acres of desert brush and sandstone cliffs (HCN, 2/17/03:
Conservation pays off in a desert town).
Canyonlands Field Institute is happy about the deal: The group
gives outdoor lessons in environmental education and frequently
uses the Mary Jane Canyon area. Lawson says his purchase allows the
students to continue to use an “irreplaceable
laboratory.” Lawson and The Nature Conservancy are also
discussing placing a conservation easement on the property to
prevent future development.