The complex of wetland areas in the Uintah Basin, including Pelican Lake, is very important for many bird species. Pelican Lake is a natural lake in the Uinta Basin southwest of Vernal. Historically, it is noted as a world class Bluegill fishery, and is considered a Blue Ribbon Fishery for both Bluegill and Largemouth Bass. Pelican Lake has been dammed to impound and release water for irrigation, and water is diverted into the lake via the Ouray Park Canal from the Uinta River. The existing concrete dam was built in 1967, but the lake has been in use as a water storage facility for decades. Well over half of the shoreline is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bureau of Land Management and the rest is privately owned. Consumptive water use is primarily for irrigation.
Pelican Lake qualified as an IBA based on surveys showing that avian congregations (specifically waterfowl) met numerical criteria. From 1997 through 2008 mid-winter waterfowl counts had three years when there were over 2,000 wintering waterfowl. Total mid-winter waterfowl counts during these twelve years are the following (with number of Mallards in parenthesis): 1997 ? 22,584 (17,531), 1998 ? 689 (564), 1999 ? 907(564), 2000 ? 12,550 (11,000), 2001 ? 5,689 (4,800), 2002 ? 60 (60), 2005 ? 1,050 (670), 2006 ? 356 (2), and 2007 ? 2,750 (Mallards not separated). Years not shown were not counted or had no birds due to frozen conditions. Also, there were two personal observations where water birds (primarily American Coot) exceeded 5,000 in the fall of 2005 and 2007.
Pelican Lake also qualified as an IBA due to observations of the American White Pelican, which is on the Utah Division of Wildlife resources sensitive species list. American White Pelicans use the Lake through much of the year for foraging. Over 300 American While Pelicans have been observed. Bald Eagles are present at Pelican Lake during winter months, but no counts are available.
The Important Bird Area for Pelican Lake consists of land owned and managed by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The total acreage includes roughly 75% of the lake and also additional upland property by the shoreline on BOR and BLM property. The amount of acreage is approximately 1,056 acres. Private landowners own the remainder of Pelican Lake and upland property bordering the lake. Their properties are not included in the Important Bird Area.