Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
FILE - Skiers ski at Alta on Thursday, April 5, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Central Wasatch Commission, which grew out of the Mountain Accord process, is considering adopting a resolution endorsing a new federal designation in the Wasatch canyons.

The area would get 8,000 acres of new wilderness in a proposal that involves land swaps between the U.S. Forest Service and four Salt Lake County ski resorts.

A discussion will happen Monday at the commission's meeting at 3 p.m. in the Cottonwood Heights City Hall council chambers.

The proposal, called the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act, involves nearly 80,000 acres of federal land in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

Beyond enhanced protections for the land in question, the idea is for ski resorts to trade out more pristine land higher in the mountains for land at the base of their property for expansion.

Aaron Thorup, Central Wasatch Commission

Some of the compromises eked over the years, however, are starting to hit a hurdle. Alta Ski Area officials, for example, indicated earlier this year that the popular backcountry area Grizzly Gulch is off the table for a potential trade.

That withdrawal is causing concern among multiple groups, including the Wasatch Back Country Alliance and Save Our Canyons.

Multiple residents spoke out about the possible legislation — which would be carried by Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah — at the commission's last meeting in June.

The commission intends to hire a consultant to sift through the written input offered during a public comment period and perform an analysis for the commission's executive director, Ralph Becker, to present to board members.

While a federal designation proposes to protect mountainous land invaluable to the valley's watershed and preserve recreation values, some critics say legislative proposal is flawed for a number of reasons.

Bill Clayton, a member of the Granite Community Council, wrote Love and told her the measure is being falsely proposed as a consensus measure when in fact there is conflict.

"The discord is evident from multiple parties, including private property owners, members of the backcountry community, ski resorts, environmentalists, mountain bikers, hikers and community councils both individually and collectively," Clayton wrote.

Norm Henderson, a Big Cottonwood Canyon resident, also wrote Love and asserted a "cloud of suspicion and bad faith hovers over this proposal."

Henderson sued the Mountain Accord alleging the planning for the proposal and other items in the accord's process violated the state's open meetings law.

6 comments on this story

A judge has ruled the Mountain Accord did fall under the open meetings law and the discovery phase is underway in the litigation process.

Henderson asked Love to hold off while the litigation continues.

Henderson also pointed out while the proposal contemplates more development in the canyons with ski resort expansions, the measure lacks any component addressing already troubling transportation issues.

Many organizations remain on board with the proposal, however, but say it needs more work before it is ready for introduction in Congress, particularly as it relates to backcountry protections.