November 13, 2020

Utah’s Fremont Island is sold to conservation buyer

By Brian Maffly published November 12, 2020

A conservation buyer has acquired Fremont Island, the Great Salt Lake’s third-largest and only privately owned island, from would-be developers who envisioned a 12,000-unit subdivision on the 2,943-acre island in Weber County. The moves sets the stage for the sensitive island’s permanent protection.

The island had been purchased two years ago by the monster truck enthusiasts behind the Diesel Brothers television show as a potential motorized sports venue. Their vision evolved into a proposal for an “amazing master-planned community that would provide thousands of homes,” according to a news release Tuesday from the sellers' representative, Zach Hartman of Land Advisors Organization.

After it proved difficult to secure state and county approvals for the rights of way needed to develop the island, co-owner Gavin Dickson went looking for a buyer who had the expertise and means for conserving the land, Hartman said in an interview.

Hartman is bound by a nondisclosure agreement that bars him from divulging the sale price or the name of the buyer.

A search of public records, however, shows the new owner is the Palladium Foundation, headed by Salt Lake City philanthropist Jennifer Speers, who chairs the board of the Nature Conservancy’s Utah chapter. Her nonprofit land conservation organization acquired Fremont Island in a deal that closed Sept. 4. The sales price was not disclosed but Weber County assesses the property at $882,912.

News of Speers' involvement in the deal came as a huge relief to Lynn de Freitas, executive director of Friends of Great Salt Lake who has long feared that Fremont Island’s ecological values were at risk under its prior ownership.

“Finally Fremont Island has found the right match, someone who cares about conservation, cares about the Great Salt Lake, understands what the value of Fremont Island is as a habitat, as a historic part of the Great Salt Lakes ecosystem,” de Freitas said. “It’s heartening to know that the island is now in good, responsible hands.”

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