Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz is introducing a bill in Congress today that offers a possible solution for years of conflict over sustainable use in the Central Wasatch Mountains.
The Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act would preserve roughly 80,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land and add 8,000 acres of wilderness. It would also limit future resort expansion and clean up patchwork land ownership in the canyons by authorizing a land exchange between the U.S. Forest Service and the four resorts.
“I think what’s going to be impressive to our colleagues is that on the full political spectrum, all the different interests have come together,” says Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz.
He unveiled the bill Monday with fellow Republican members of Utah’s congressional delegation, along with Salt County Mayor Ben McAdams and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, both Democrats.
The draft legislation is a product of the Mountain Accord, a multi-year public process focused on transportation issues, environmental and watershed protections and recreation in the canyons.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams is co-chair of the Mountain Accord Executive Committee.
“We have proposed a balance that is good for the environment. That is good for recreation. That is good for the ski industry and transportation access and protects our watershed,” McAdams says.
The bill goes a long way to protect public lands but there is much left to do says Layne Jones, the Mountain Accord program director.
“We know that in the short term we want to focus on getting people on buses and reducing the number of cars in the canyons and getting more people walking and biking and taking transit,” Jones says. “Along with that, we’ve got to tackle this question of whether the canyons are connected.”
The bill will be referred to the House Natural Resources Committee, which is chaired by Utah Republican Congressman Rob Bishop. Congressman Chaffetz hopes it will pass by the end of the year.