Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, on Tuesday introduced a bill to consolidate Salt Lake land holdings in the watershed canyons east and north of the city.
The measure would authorize a nearly 9,000-acre land swap between Salt Lake City and the U.S. Forest Service along City Creek, Red Butte, Emigration and Parleys canyons.Mayor Palmer DePaulis lobbied hard for the bill when he was in Washington for a mayor's meeting 10 days ago. Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, has said he plans to introduce a similar bill in the House.
The Garn bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, would transfer 8,935 acres of city land to the Forest Service in exchange for 8,950 acres now in Wasatch National Forest.
The swap would be a "mini-Bold" plan, similar in principle to former Gov. Scott Matheson's proposal to swap State and federal lands to eliminate the checkerboard pattern of state school lands scattered across the Utah map. The Garn plan would eliminate the checkerboard land ownership pattern of U.S. and city land in the canyons, which are important as a watershed to the city.
Existing private mineral rights, established on the federal lands prior to 1914 would remain under federal jurisdiction. A 1914 law eliminated further mining on U.S. lands in the area.
The state anti-degradation policy, which protects watersheds, would remain in effect, Garn said.
Garn, a former Salt Lake water commissioner, has been particularly solicitous of the city's watersheds since he came to Congress. He sponsored a 1987 land trade in Little Cottonwood Canyon under which the Trust for Public Lands bought private acreage and traded it to the Forest Service to preserve the watershed.
The Garn bill would exempt the swap from the National Environmental Policy Act and would require no Environmental Impact Statement to carry out the trade. Neither would it require the establishment of value of the lands to be traded. A Garn spokesman said the City estimated the mineral values in the area to be "minimal."