LHA mainstay, Fish Springs manager Banta retires

The Salt Lake Tribune ran a feature story (and the photo below) about the retirement of Jay Banta as manager of Fish Springs National Wilflife Refuge, an oasis along the Lincoln Highway in dusty central Utah. Banta, long-time LHA member and membership director, has managed the preserve for the past 19 years. He’s also become an authority on fabled rancher and auto-service provider John Thomas, who pulled motorists from quagmires a century ago.

Jay Banta, known for his long beard, strong opinions and passion for all things wild, is calling it a career this week, exactly to the day he came to the most remote national wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states as its manager. How far off the beaten track is Fish Springs? Consider that the only way to reach the refuge is on a dirt road along a path that once served as the route for the Pony Express, the first transcontinental telegraph and the Lincoln Highway. The dirt roads are so bad that Banta always purchased lifetime warranties on tires, shocks and mufflers.

After working at Fish Springs as a seasonal employee in 1981 and 1982, Banta dreamed of coming back to the 17,992-acre oasis in the desert. It was established as a refuge in 1959 to provide habitat for migrating and wintering birds. “I think some people are possessed by this place,” he said. “I was possessed.”…

Banta has built a new house in Torrey where he plans to retire. He has part-time work lined up, including working as a barista to support his coffee habit.

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