Utah Conservation Summary

From the alpine heights of the Wasatch Mountains, which receive more than 500 inches of snow annually, to the carved wonders of the Colorado Plateau’s redrock formations and the vast salt flats of the western desert, Utah is a study in contrasts. Covering an area of almost 85,000 square miles, the state offers an incredible variety of landscapes that harbor a wealth of unique plants and animals, ranking Utah fifth in the nation for the number of species found here and nowhere else on Earth.

Rare Species and Characteristic Habitats

In northwestern Utah, the Great Salt Lake, a globally significant migratory bird habitat, hosts some of the largest bird species gatherings in the world. Rare and fragile life also thrives in the arid conditions of southwestern Utah, which is home to federally listed species such as the dwarf bearclaw poppy, desert tortoise and gila monster. In the southeastern corner of the state, the mighty Colorado River cuts through redrock desert, creating rich riparian areas and an oasis of wetland habitats that attract more than 220 species of birds. The Wasatch and Uinta mountain ranges boast hundreds of rivers and streams that flow through picturesque coniferous forests and meadows supporting a range of wildlife including moose, deer, elk, cougars and a variety of rare fish and birds.

Public and Private Conservation Efforts

A variety of conservation partners have worked closely with private landowners to help safeguard Utah’s special landscapes for both people and wildlife. For example, at the Great Salt Lake, private land acquisitions and conservation easements have saved vital wetlands habitat, while a diverse group of stakeholders is now working to chart a new lake-wide management vision that ensures the future of this globally significant resource. At places like the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, the Dugout Ranch, and the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve, The Nature Conservancy is helping to save some of the state’s most at-risk ecological treasures.


Many challenges remain, foremost among them the looming threat of climate change. According to the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American West has warmed 70 percent more than the planet as a whole, and is on track to set more dubious records. Scientists predict that the Colorado River Basin is on track for severe drought, far worse than at any time in the last century. In Utah, where all water is at a premium, increasing pressure from dams, diversions and groundwater withdrawals can threaten entire ecosystems. Invasive species and unmanaged motorized recreation also pose major problems for the survival of Utah’s native species.

Utah’s Future

But through the continued efforts of citizens, assisted by conservation groups and state and federal agencies, strong progress is being made. For example, the Conservancy and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources have joined forces to improve the Utah Wildlife Action Plan in an effort to create a consensus around the priority areas for conservation action statewide. In the past, conservation groups and government agencies have pursued disparate and sometimes contradictory priorities to help protect wildlife. Through this enhanced plan, Utah’s conservation stakeholders will have an unprecedented opportunity to coordinate and leverage their efforts.

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