This past summer, Bill Geer made the pitch to start a foundation. This one, he said, would help answer pressing needs of everything from fishes and sparrows and bighorn sheep to a hiking trail for the handicapped, boat ramps for boaters, and parks for kids, and people listened. It was, they agreed, a good idea.
Cooperation? Unity? OK, but . . . who's going to do it? Well, it was done.Now there's a foundation that has been incorporated under state law, recognized by the Utah Parks Board, will soon be recognized by the Utah Wildlife Board and will file with the highest order, the Internal Revenue Service, for tax status. It's hoped that some day Gov. Norm Bangerter will recognize it, too. It has officers, advisers and, already, projects.
Its name is the Outdoor Resources Foundation of Utah. Its objective, simply, is to do anything and everything to help improve Utah's outdoor experiences.
There are similar organizations in other parts of the country. California has one, as does Washington, Oregon and Wyoming.
Geer, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, got the idea after talking with the Washington group. He saw it as a way of getting needed wildlife projects completed that would otherwise go untouched because of tightening purse strings.
In Washington this year, the foundation, only in its fifth year, is expected to take in close to $600,000 in donations. Taking into account matching state and federal funds, Washington could turn this into more than $4 million in resources improvements.
There is no reason Utah's group can't have similar success. Less than two months old, it already has three projects targeted, a sizable donation from the Salt Lake County Fish and Game Association, and promises from others.
One project would turn a large section of land near Green River into a showcase area for bighorn sheep. The sheep have already been promised by another state. The DWR is convinced it can be one of the best areas in the country for sheep, and the BLM is committed to help making it one of the finest. To start the project, a grazing permit now held in private hands must be bought and retired. Without outside help, it's unlikely the DWR could ever free up enough funds.
Another project would help Snowbird build a hiking trail that could be used by the handicapped. Plans are to build displays, among them one showing wildlife in the area, hands-on exhibits and a unique trail experience. One company has already expressed interest in helping on the project. There has also been discussion on building trails at two other locations that would involve different habitat and wildlife.
The third project could put Utah at the top of the fish market. The target is six hatching ponds near the shores of Lake Powell that have been used for striped bass and, more recently, smallmouth bass. Because of increased water seepage, fish production is down.
If the ponds were lined, at a cost of about $170,000, then conditions would be perfect for raising "whipers," a cross between a striped bass and a white bass. According to fisheries dealers, states able to raise "whipers" can almost name their price. With "whipers" to trade, Utah could fill the gap where its hatcheries are lacking and even trade for new species. Here again, the chances of needed funds being freed up by the DWR are slim. The Utah B.A.S.S. Federation, however, got the project started with a sizeable donation.
Besides being his idea, Geer has been the foundation's most active adviser and supporter. He deserves the biggest share of credit for the foundation's successes thus far.
Why he has tried so hard to get the foundation up and going is that he envisions it as a way of getting people involved in division wildlife projects. More importantly, however, he sees it as a way of easing the pains of growing demands and shrinking budgets.
Geer's official position with the foundation is that of an adviser, as is Jerry Miller, director of the Division of Parks and Recreation. Decisions on projects and funding rests outside Geer's or any government agency's control. Board members, all private citizens and volunteers, among them President Jerry Little, David Parkinson, Lincoln Clark and Kenley Brunsdale, make all the decisions.
It is their opinion that with continued support and work the Outdoor Resources Foundation of Utah can be a major contributor to Utah's recreation opportunities, benefiting everyone from hikers to hunters, sightseers to fishermen, adults to children.