While visiting a small music festival, I learned about the effort to save Sheep Bridge. In the shadow of Zion National Park, a small trail winds through the vast desert. Below the picturesque town of Virgin lies the 419 acres known as Sheep BridgeBeginning in the 1850’s, shepherds employed a single lane bridge to move sheep over the Virgin River. The unique environment is an oasis to many different types of wildlife. It is bordered by the 80-acre BLM property, Falls Park.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) has stated that the area is amongst the most pristine in the Southwest. Many at-risk fish inhabit the river, including the Virgin spinedace, flannelmouth sucker, desert sucker and speckled dace. As Zion National Park has become an increasingly popular destination for tourists, there has been a great deal of growth in the area. Once pristine river bank and flood plain is now the site of hotels and travel services. Sheep Bridge is at risk.
Elaine York, West Desert Regional Director for The Nature Conservancy says, “There’s significant momentum around efforts to protect the Virgin. With all the partners working toward a shared vision, we have real hope for the river’s sustainable future.”
A document sent by the conservancy states their mission to purchase and protect. “The Conservancy is joining forces with the Virgin River Land Preservation Association to purchase and protect the 419- acre Sheep Bridge property. Once the property is owned and protected, it can be managed as one of the ‘best of the best’ portions of the Virgin River ecosystem. In addition to protecting the critical fish and wildlife habitat, the purchase of Sheep Bridge will ensure the property supports public access, including a designated hiking and biking trail, to promote visitation and responsible recreation. For nearly a decade, the Conservancy has been focused on the Virgin River, working with partners to restore streamside habitat and explore agricultural efficiency projects that will benefit farmers and ranchers while keeping water instream for fish and birds.
The Conservancy already owns a key 27-acre parcel near the Sheep Bridge property, and is eager to ensure this corridor remains viable for the wealth of wildlife it supports.”
As Utah continues to grow in both population and as a tourist destination, steps must be taken to ensure the preservation of our beautiful, wild open spaces.
The best way to donate directly to this project is to contact Mary Delle Gunn on our philanthropy team in SLC:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-238-2324. General donations to our UT Chapter can be made here.