In an effort to maintain sustainability in Utah County’s ecosystems, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is installing three osprey nesting platforms in Orem next to Utah Lake.

Osprey, also known as sea hawks and river hawks, are predatory birds that almost exclusively eat fish and nest in tall trees.

The birds are common throughout Utah and are usually found around large bodies of water and rivers, said David Lee, a biologist and habitat project leader with DWR.

“The thing that limits osprey is the availability of suitable nesting habitat,” Lee said. “(There’s) just not a lot of large trees around.”

On Tuesday, DWR employees and workers from Provo City Power met at the Powell Slough Waterfowl Management Area in Orem and installed one of the nesting platforms, which are about as tall as a power pole and were built by Provo City Power. The other two will be installed later this month, Lee said.

There are more than a dozen osprey nesting platforms throughout Utah County, according to Lee. However, as part of the Provo River Delta Restoration Project, which will restore habitat for the endangered June sucker fish, some of those platforms need to be moved.

“There’s going to be a lot of disturbance (and) a lot of heavy equipment” near the Provo River in upcoming months, Lee said. “So that would disturb the osprey while they’re trying to nest.”

The goal of the nesting project is to build new platforms in a “suitable habitat” that isn’t too far from the old platforms and still near water, the biologist said. “So that when the osprey return from their winter migration, they’ll be able to find the platforms again and resume their nesting.”

As it turns out, the most suitable area for the platforms was on private land. But the owner of the land, Keith Holdaway, was interested to the idea of supporting wildlife in Utah Valley.

“This country here used to be just grazed with our critters in the springtime,” Holdaway said about the 50 acres of land he owns on the east side of Utah Lake. Because of the growth of phragmites, a tall grass that grows near wetland areas, those critters can’t be found today.

Phragmites have destroyed the wildlife habitat, Holdaway said.

When he heard that the DWR was looking for somewhere to install nesting platforms, he welcomed the idea.

“This is a win-win situation for the whole county,” he said, adding that he plans on grazing the land to make it sustainable for other wild animals. “It’s just a great thing that the whole valley will be able to come down and enjoy the wildlife (and) the trail system like it’s never happened before.”

Scott Bunker, assistant director of Provo City Power, said the company was happy to provide its equipment for the project since DWR was not equipped to install the platforms. When they saw the nesting structures being moved “were in really bad shape,” they offered to build new ones, Bunker said.

“We wanted to be part of this project and just continue to do what we can to be a sustainable company and show that we’re more than just about generating power,” he said. “This is just one of those great projects to be able to give back to the community.”

About two decades ago, the power company was involved in building nesting platforms in Provo, Bunker said. “It’s been quite awhile since we’ve done anything like this.”

Holdaway said he hopes installing the platforms and grazing the land will bring wildlife back to the area for the benefit of all Utahns.

“It will be really thrilling to watch all that reverse back to the way it was,” said Holdaway. “And it will happen.”

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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