A recreation and land's forester with the U.S. Forest Services said he has no doubt that a land exchange with Snowbasin ski resort will have some negative impact on the environment.
"The area is going to be degraded," said forester Glenn Casamassa. "The water shed might be degraded."The forester noted that thousands of trees will be cut down after construction begins on new ski runs, roads, motels, housing and golf courses.
"The forest up there is relatively untouched," he added. "There's going to be some clearing."
Casamassa said only time will tell how much environmental impact there will be after Earl Holding expands his facilities at the ski resort located up Ogden Canyon.
The Forest Service has agreed to give Holding 695 acres of national forest so the local developer can expand his facility into a four-season resort.
Controversy over the land swap started when Wasatch-Cache National Forest Supervisor Dale Bosworth announced at a press conference in February 1990 that the government would turn over 220 acres. Bosworth has since moved to Washington, D.C., and is now the deputy director of timber management.
Then in September, Regional Forester Stan Tixier announced that he was overruling Bosworth's decision and agreed to swap 695 acres. Tixier, who has since retired, said his decision was a compromise between Holding's request of swapping 1,320 acres and the 220 acres approved for exchange by Bosworth. That decision has since been upheld by the U.S. forest chief.
Casamassa said he originally headed the environmental impact study done on the proposed land swap, and he said he agreed that 220 acres was appropriate. He said he was pleased when Bosworth accepted his recommendation but was not disappointed when Tixier overturned the decision.
"Based on the information we received from the public, they supported the original decision of swapping 220 acres," said Casamassa.
Environmentalists appealed the 220-acre decision, saying no land should be exchanged. On the other side, Holding, along with Ogden and Weber County officials, appealed the ruling, saying the full 1,320-acre request should be approved.
Casamassa said the next step in exchanging the land will be for the government and Holding to agree on what land the resort owner will give in exchange for the 695 acres. Holding owns about 7,000 acres around Snowbasin, more land than is within Ogden city limits.
"There's still a long row to hoe," said Casamassa. "This whole thing's not over yet."
Casamassa predicts that another environmental impact study will have to be done before the land exchange is finalized.
If all runs smoothly, Casamassa said that Holding could start developing his resort on the exchanged lands in three more years. But if environmental groups file lawsuits in federal courts, the forester said that years may pass before the controversy is resolved and construction begins.
"It could take years before we get to the fine point of saying, `This land is your land, this land is my land'," explained Casamassa.