New Cinnamon Creek wildlife area almost became private cabin development
HUNTSVILLE — A more than 8,000-acre tract of sagebrush hills, stands of aspen, a thickly forested canyon and crisscrossing creeks and streams will remain open to the public in its new existence as a state-owned wildlife management area.
The Cinnamon Creek WMA acreage, recognized with a ribbon cutting last week, may have ended up as a privately owned cabin development, but the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources marshaled $20 million in donated and public funds to win an auction for the land last fall.
State officials say public preservation of the area will provide vital summer range for mule deer, elk and moose. The DWR said in a news release that sharp tailed-grouse and greater sage-grouse also abound in the new WMA, and native Bonneville cutthroat trout swim in its creeks and streams. The DWR said crews have a lot of road, fence and habitat work to do to make the area better for wildlife and remain a good place to hunt and fish.
“It’s just a really, really beautiful area,” Mark Hadley, a DWR spokesperson, said Monday. “We’re so happy to be able to keep this open to the public.”
The WMA straddles the border of Weber and Cache counties. From Huntsville, it can be reached by going east on state Route 39 to the Monte Cristo area and turning left on the gravel Ant Flat Road, a 20-mile route that connects with Blacksmith Fork Canyon in Cache County.
According to DWR regional habitat manager Daniel Olson, the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration had controlled the Cinnamon Creek area for decades when it put the land up for bid last fall. Numerous parties, including private developers, wanted it. But DWR, conservation groups, the Utah Legislature and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put together funds for the successful DWR bid.
Donor groups included the Mule Deer Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.
“There’s no way we (the DWR and the state) could have acquired that land,” Hadley said. “These other groups put in a lot of money, and without it, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Under SITLA ownership, the land generated funds for the Utah school system by charging for cattle and sheep grazing, and DWR paid a yearly fee to allow hunters and anglers access.
“The property just wasn’t generating the amount of revenue SITLA was hoping it would generate,” prompting the auction, Hadley said. “There was some interest by developers in allowing cabins, a cabin community. It would have been closed to the public.”
Since DWR took ownership in June, crews have been rebuilding and expanding the WMA’s parking area, building a new entrance road and installing a flood control culvert. Roads and fencing in the WMA are in poor shape and will be improved over time. Unofficial spur roads will be closed.
Hadley said livestock grazing in the WMA has been ended, at least temporarily. A committee will convene in January to develop a management plan for the WMA. “Grazing will be readdressed,” Hadley said. “We will offer either some limited grazing or not.”
Habitat restoration projects will be planned, but the area’s habitat is in decent shape even after extensive grazing over the years, Hadley said.
Cinnamon Creek is the state’s 193rd wildlife management area. The DWR says the areas provide hunting and fishing, winter and summer ranges, plus feeding grounds for many wildlife species, and they help cut wildlife depredations on private lands.