Wasatch Environmental Update; Wasatch Wilderness

Wasatch Env Update img

Wasatch Environmental Update for September 01, 2013

By John Worlock, Member, SOC Board of Directors

“Wasatch Wilderness”

Today we’re going to assume that you understand the importance of Wilderness (that’s capital-W Wilderness) to the state’s, and the nation’s, economic well-being and, indeed, mental health.  Wilderness, you already understand, is important to who we are, and how we got here.

So we will turn our attention to the currently proposed federal legislation, the Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act, HR 2808.  This bill, introduced by Congressman Jim Matheson, is designed to protect over 24 thousand acres of Forest Service land in the Tri-Canyon area of the Wasatch Range – those mountains arising from the Salt Lake Valley, surrounding the Mill Creek and Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.

The three existing Wilderness Areas, all visible from the valley and named for their salient mountains, are, from south to north, the Lone Peak, the Twin Peak and the Mount Olympus Wildernesses.  Each of those has its long history of concerted effort, involving Save Our Canyons and others, leading to the successful congressional actions that established their status as Wilderness.

The new legislation would augment each of those areas with minor additions, mostly deeper into the canyons, but would add an important new one to be named the Wayne Owens – Grandeur Peak Wilderness Area, covering six thousand acres north of Mill Creek Canyon and encompassing its namesake peak overlooking the Valley.  With this addition, all of the Wasatch peaks visible from the Salt Lake Valley will be Wilderness!

An important new ingredient in the current wilderness legislation is the incorporation of about 11 thousand acres called Special Management Areas.  These areas recognize that the Forest Service has for many decades allowed Special Use Permits to the Wasatch Powderbird Guides for their helicopter skiing enterprise.  Special Management means that except for the sporadic heliski operations, these areas are to be managed is if they were truly Wilderness.

Finally, as suggested by the title of the legislation, the Wasatch watershed is an essential contribution to our wellbeing in the Salt Lake Valley.  This legislation will preserve not only our backyard wilderness heritage, but also our access to clean water.

Come to this website:  wasatchwilderness.org, to learn more and to give support.

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