Legislative Proposal Suggests Utah Ski Resorts and Forest Services Swap Land

The Central Wasatch Commission, which sprouted from the Mountain Accord process, is contemplating a resolution endorsing a new federal designation in the Wasatch canyons. The area would get 8,000 acres of new wilderness in a proposal suggesting land swaps between the U.S. Forest Service and the Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude ski resorts.

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The proposal, called the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act, involves nearly 80,000 acres of federal land in several National Forests. Beyond enhanced protections for the land in question, the main idea is for ski resorts to trade out more pristine land higher in the mountains for land at the base of their property for infrastructural expansion. Some of these compromises managed to scrape by over the years. However, they’ve started running into a few obstacles. For example, Alta Ski Area officials stated earlier this year that the popular backcountry area “Grizzly Gulch” is off the table for a potential trade.

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Many organizations remain on board with the proposal, though they claim it needs more work before it is ready for introduction in Congress, particularly as it relates to backcountry.

However, despite the organizations supporting the proposal, the Alta withdrawal is causing concern among multiple groups, including the Wasatch Back Country Alliance and Save Our Canyons. Residents spoke out about the potential legislation, which would be carried by Rep. Mia Love, at the commission’s last meeting in June.

Granite Community Council member Bill Clayton wrote to Love, telling her the measure is being falsely proposed as a consensus measure when there is in fact conflict. ”The discord is evident from multiple parties, including private property owners, members of the backcountry community, ski resorts, environmentalists, mountain bikers, hikers and community councils both individually and collectively,” stated Clayton.

Snowbird

Big Cottonwood Canyon resident Norm Henderson also wrote Love, asserting that he had a “cloud of suspicion and bad faith hovers over this proposal.” Henderson also sued the Mountain Accord alleging the planning for the proposal and other items in the accord’s process violated Utah’s open meetings law. A judge, however, has ruled that Mountain Accord did indeed fall under the open meetings law and the discovery phase is underway in the litigation process.

Henderson asked Love to hold off while the litigation continues, and pointed out that while the proposal contemplates more development in the canyons with ski resort expansions, said measure fails to address the already troubling transportation issues.

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