Wasatch Wilderness Re-Introduced!

We have been hard at work since the first time this legislation was introduced to Congress in April 2010, and received its first hearing before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands in June of that same year. Since that time we’ve been working with the USFS to resolve issues they brought up at the June 2010 hearing and are pleased to report that this legislation is ripe for reintroduction!

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Over a decade of advocacy work by Save Our Canyons and about 2 years of meetings with stakeholders ranging from interested municipalities (Salt Lake City, Sandy City), all four Salt Lake County ski resorts, Wasatch Powderbird Guides, Black Diamond Equipment, and other environmental partners lead to Congressman Matheson’s announcement to introduce the Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act.

Highlights of the reintroduced legislation include:

  • HR 2808 as introduced designates an additional 24,420 acres of wilderness and special management area protection. 13,407 acres of Wilderness and 11, 013 acres of Special Management areas.
  • Enhance the level of protection on your public National Forest Lands.
  • Establishment of a new 6,202-acre wilderness area on the North side of Millcreek Canyon, to be called the Wayne Owens Grandeur Peak Wilderness Area
  • Creation of special management areas which are to be managed for strict watershed protection while allowing for the permitted use by the helicopter skiing business under existing Forest Service rules and regulations.
  • Resolution of a long-standing conflict between backcountry skiers and Snowbird Ski Resort over a proposed expansion into White Pine Canyon. White Pine is proposed to rightfully become part of the Lone Peak Wilderness, something we’ve sought to accomplish since before 1978!
  • Maintenance of a popular mountain biking trails. The Wasatch Crest Trail, Millcreek Pipeline, Mill D North, Big Water, Little Water and Lambs Canyon/Great Western Trail, all reside OUTSIDE wilderness boundaries and will remain open to bike with buffers for re-routes.
  • Protection of Flagstaff Mountain, Pink Pine & Mt. Superior vis-a-vis land exchange with Snowbird Resort for the top of the American Fork Twin Peaks and lands in Mineral Basin.
  • Allowances for trail and road/transportation improvements adjacent to Wilderness and Special Management Areas.
  • Protection of community water resources and springs
  • Protection of the area proposed for the controversial SkiLink between Canyons Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort.

One of the more controversial elements of the legislation is a land exchange & conservation easement between Snowbird, Salt Lake City and the USFS. This seems to be the sole remaining issue that is giving some heart burn. This land exchange would involve the exchange of Inventoried Roadless Areas (approximately 173 acres) inclusive of the American Fork Twin Peaks and additional acreage in Mineral Basin (approx. 150 acres) from the USFS to Snowbird Resort. In exchange about 845 acres of land would come to the USFS plus cash equalization payments once appraisal have been completed. Areas protected that are currently owned by Snowbird today include Flagstaff Mountain, Mt. Superior and Pink Pine or Rainbow Mountain.

This bill is a compromise agreed to by a number of businesses, environmental groups, city and county entities, ski industry reps, and other community members. Everyone was united around the goal of protecting the watershed and preserving the outdoor experience. Last year a Salt Lake Tribune Editorial wisely stated,
“If the pristine forest lands were polluted by expanded development in the canyons, these beautiful and valuable watersheds would be gone forever… Matheson’s wilderness proposal would help provide that protection.”
The reintroduction of this legislation to protect Federal Lands in the Wasatch is a major step in our efforts to protect this area. Much work still needs to be done. Please consider supporting our efforts by making a contribution to help fund the important work of Save Our Canyons inclusive of advocating for a hearing for this legislation, working on local planning efforts and ordinance rewrites.

Visit the “TAKE ACTION” page or the Save Our Canyons website for more information on how you can help!

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