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Mitigation Commission Earns Environmental Stewardship Award

A new chapter in the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station's (UAES) The Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission (URMCC) was recently honored with the 2008 Utah Botanical Center Environmental Stewardship Award in recognition of its outstanding work to improve the state's watersheds and educate people of all ages about the importance of Utah's natural resources.

Utah State University President Stan Albrecht said criteria for award defines stewardship as "...more than conservation, education and environmental science. It is also demonstrating a moral and spiritual obligation to present day communities and to future generations. In addition, recipients must demonstrate long-term support for protecting the environment, economic strength, and quality of life in the Intermountain West."

Albrecht said that since its creation in 1994, the commission has worked with more than 30 partners to complete more than 80 projects in the state. It has contributed over $170 million to mitigation and conservation projects that stretch from the Deep Creek Mountains on the Nevada border to the Green River and from the north end of the Great Salt Lake to the Dixie National Forest.

URMCC Executive Director Michael Weland credited the agency's success to "the spirit of environmental stewardship that is growing in the state" and the power of partnering with other government agencies, organizations and individuals. The commission is a federal agency with a local mission to design, implement and fund projects that offset the impacts on fish, wildlife and recreation resources caused by federal reclamation activities such as the Central Utah Project. It focuses its efforts on riparian, wetland and other wildlife habitat restoration in several of the state's key watersheds.

The commission also supports environmental education programs and Weland noted the importance educating people about natural resources and how daily decisions people make about using water and other resources affects their communities.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Dave Livermore, state director of The Nature Conservancy, said that early conservation efforts were regarded as something that happened "out there" but that current projects often focus on conserving land, water and other resources adjacent to urban areas.

"We often say we are not saving nature from people, but for people," Livermore said. "Yes, we need roads, power plants, buildings and mines, but we also need to repair and protect our environment."

Livermore said many people are unaware of the URMCC, calling the commission the "best kept secret in conservation" and adding, there is no end to the good the commission's staff and volunteers have done for the people of Utah.