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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Tibble Fork Reservoir, bottom, and Silver Lake Flat Reservoir, top left, are seen from the air Monday, June 29, 2015, up American Fork Canyon.

SALT LAKE CITY — In the wake of strong opposition by some Utah County residents to a proposed land swap involving Snowbird ski resort and the U.S. Forest Service, a group designed to preserve the Wasatch Mountains will create a working group that will examine and review the possible exchange.

The proposed land swap would transfer 1,100 acres of land in Salt Lake County to the public in exchange for just over 400 acres owned by the U.S. Forest Service in American Fork Canyon adjacent to land that is already privately owned.

Critics argue that, if approved, the swap would give Snowbird a contiguous connector to land it already owns in the canyon area. Some opponents contend that the resort has plans for expansion in Mineral Basin, installing a gondola at Tibble Fork and building condominiums on Miller Hill as well as the Utah County land swap that is part of the Mountain Accord process in Salt Lake, Wasatch and Summit counties.

The Mountain Accord is a consortium of public and private entities collaborating on proposed plans for future development and preservation of central Wasatch recreation areas.

Mountain Accord introduced the Snowbird land exchange proposal to the public in February. Project manager Laynee Jones said the public would benefit because the land that would go into public ownership is vital watershed and would be permanently managed to protect drinking water and open space.

“The purpose of the Utah County working group is to identify one or more options for the Utah County side of the land exchange that could work for the users of American Fork Canyon,” she said Tuesday. “Snowbird has offered to work with this group to identify ways to accommodate all the users of the canyon.”

The option or options that the group identifies could be proposed to the U.S. Forest Service to be evaluated and vetted in a public process consistent with federal environmental policy, Jones added.

She said there is no timeline identified yet, but it has been proposed that Utah County and the working group determine a timeline that allows for vetting and public dialogue.

“The Accord is still on schedule to be approved this summer,” Jones said. “Rather than referencing a specific solution for American Fork, it will reference the Utah County process and working group.”

Utah County officials say the new group will provide residents and other local stakeholders a critical voice in the process.

“As American Fork elected officials and others have noted, this is about the future of water, outdoor recreation, and preserving nature for everyone who loves this area,” said Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves. “We all want to ensure that we’re moving in the right direction because the growth we’re seeing in our community is inevitably going to bring change.”

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He said having a voice in the Mountain Accord process is important for Utah County residents because it gives them a say in planning their own future.

“It directly impacts not only our transportation, but all of our citizens that recreate in that canyon,” he said. “It’s important all of our citizens are involved in the process to make sure that we’re representing them as we move forward in whatever manner is best for the county and all of the residents.”

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