ST. GEORGE — The Utah Trust Lands Administration, a federal agency and a national conservation organization have partnered to complete a land transaction that will foster protections for two rare species of plants listed as either threatened or endangered.

A 296-acre parcel of land in the White Dome area of St. George was purchased by the Nature Conservancy as part of a plan to complete an 800-acre preserve to help the globally rare dwarf bear poppy and the Siler pincushion cactus.

The conservancy facilitated most of this latest land transaction with a $713,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as donations from supporters.

"The acquisition of White Dome is the culmination of a long term effort to preserve this unique area and its plant community," said Larry Crist, Utah field supervisor with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

"This preserve is an investment in the future of southern Utah for generations to come."

In June of 2005, Utah's School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration and The Nature Conservancy entered into an agreement with state and federal agencies to begin creation of the nature preserve.

The Nature Conservancy began acquiring land in 2007 and Utah Department Transportation also purchased land to be managed as part of the preserve. The goal is to someday have trails and interpretive signs, but at what point the preserve will open to the public has yet to be determined.

The two plant species that are the target of increased conservation occur only in Washington County.

— Amy Joi O'Donoghue