"There are lots of places to build large homes with great views, but… (Jud Burkett / Spectrum &…)
Imagine a McDonald's restaurant, a spread of new condos or a pizza joint despoiling the sweeping views at Utah’s Zion National Park. Well, park officials have taken another step to protect the national icon from private development, thanks to an anonymous $825,000 donation.
Park spokeswoman Alyssa Baltrus said that the 30 acres of private land at the base of Tabernacle Dome will be turned over to the National Park Service and saved from home-building. Preserving the area will also protect the red-rock views.
“We are extremely thankful to all that made this land donation possible,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “This land will help accomplish the original vision for Zion National Park – protecting the amazing geological formations and ecosystems within the boundaries approved by Congress.”
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The acquisition, arranged with the help of the Trust for Public Land and the National Parks Conservation Assn., is part of a larger effort to seal off the approximately 3,400 privately owned acres inside the park from potential development, Baltrus said.
"The entire integrity of the area there is what ends up being protected," she said.
Park officials and private groups have been left to do the work because government funding to gather these "inholdings" has dried up. Congress created the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1964 to help acquire private lands surrounded by national parks. But Congress has fully funded the program only once, and House Republicans have recently tried to shrink it to about $66 million, down from about $300 million in previous years.
The donation comes amid a sense of urgency among conservationists and park officials, especially after the recent construction of a mansion on private land just 2 miles north of the newly acquired 30-acre parcel.
"There are lots of places to build large homes with great views, but national parks like Zion aren't one of them," Will Rogers, president of the Trust for Public Land, told the Salt Lake City Tribune.
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