The U.S. Forest Service has upheld Utah Regional Forester Stan Tixier's decision favoring a 695-acre land exchange with Snowbasin Ski Resort for development of a northern Utah resort.
In a certified letter sent Wednesday, appellants including the Utah chapter of the Sierra Club and the Coalition for the Preservation of Snowbasin were advised that their appeals had been rejected.They had argued that the Forest Service analysis of the proposed swap's environmental impact was deficient.
The letter also was sent to parties that intervened in support of the swap with Snowbasin Ski Resort, including representatives of the Chamber Ogden-Weber, the Weber County Commission, the Weber Area Council of Governments, Morgan County Commission and the city of Ogden.
In affirming the ruling, Larry Henson, a Washington-based Forest Service review officer, said Tixier's decision was "sound and supported by the record" and that the swap would pose "no irretrievable loss of resources."
Henson also noted that Tixier's decision, while preparatory to an exchange, is not the final word.
"The decision signals the beginning of a more technical review process and site-specific National Environmental Policy Act analysis as called for in the ROD (Record of Decision)," Henson wrote.
"Conveyance of the exchange documents cannot be consummated until the above procedures have been completed," he added.
Henson said his findings amount to "the final decision of the Department of Agriculture unless the secretary elects to review the decision."
The secretary has 15 days to decide whether to review Henson's decision, or suspend the review period for an additional 15 days.
The 695-acre figure approved by Tixier on Sept. 5, was roughly half the 1,320 acres sought by Snowbasin. Resort manager Rainer Kolb, of Sun Valley, Idaho, said his company would accept the lower figure - though it made development prospects more difficult.
Last February, former Wasatch-Cache Forest supervisor Dale Bosworth had agreed to only a 220-acre exchange. Tixier set aside that figure in favor of the higher one, but in so doing included deed restrictions to protect wetlands and unstable ground areas.
Tixier also insisted on the federal government having first option to buy the swapped land back if Snowbasin does not develop it or puts it up for sale.