The CWC Board Voted to Move Forward with the Central Wasatch National Conservation Recreation Area Act, Now What?
The Central Wasatch Commission met for a special meeting on Monday, November 19th 2018. The only item on the meeting’s agenda was to discuss and take action on the current 10/26 draft of the CWNCRA. After two hours of discussion over the technical amendments to both the CWNCRA map and legislation, the CWC board voted to unanimously approve the CWNCRA, and encourage its introduction to Utah’s Congressional Delegation. This vote will allow CWC staff to continue to refine and build consensus among stakeholders on key issues regarding Alta Ski Lifts and Town of Alta, as well as address various technical issues in the 10/26/18 draft legislation.
The Big Issue: Alta Ski Lifts and Grizzly Gulch
Between the regular November meeting on the 5th, and the special meeting on the 19th, nearly a dozen new compromises were proposed by CWC staff, Alta Ski Lifts management, Save Our Canyons and Wasatch Backcountry Alliance. Each of these proposals aimed at keeping Alta Ski Lifts in the CWNCRA and land exchanges between the Cottonwood ski resorts and the Forest Service, but could not find consensus between the above-mentioned groups.
Resolution 2018-30, which the Board approved, explicitly leaves the door open for future discussions between CWC staff, Alta Ski Lifts management, and other key stakeholders like Save Our Canyons and Wasatch Backcountry Alliance to find a compromise that works for all parties in the legislation.
The Big Changes
Alta Ski Lifts and Alta Town
As it stands now, Alta Ski Lifts’ current ski area boundary, lands under Forest Service Special Use Permits, and surrounding private lands are excluded from the CWNCRA. The Town of Alta land boundaries are also removed from the CWNCRA project boundary. There is no explicit land exchange authorization for Alta Ski Lifts in the 10/26/18 legislation, but Alta Ski Lifts may pursue administrative land exchange proposals through the U.S. Forest Service. An overview of what the removal of Alta Ski Lifts and the Town of Alta in the 10/26 bill means:
- Removes Alta’s legislative authorization to exchange private lands for base area lands, but does not prevent Alta from pursuing administrative land exchanges.
- Lands adjacent to the Alta’s private lands in the boundaries of the Town of Alta are not included in the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area.
- Patsy Marley Avalanche Protection Zone (Forest Service Permit area) is not included in the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area.
- The 10/26 bill preserves Alta’s flexibility to pursue a connection to Big Cottonwood Canyon on its private lands.
- The 10/26 bill preserves ability Alta Ski Lifts has now to propose expansion of its resort boundaries on Forest Service adjacent lands. Legislative language explicitly allows for Alta Ski Lifts to apply to the Forest Service for expansion administratively; the legislation is neutral on Forest Service decision making.
- No additional culinary water for a 100 room hotel, retail shops or transit hub, or snow-making water. This opportunity was tied to a land exchange authorized in HR 5718 that would have exchanged Alta Ski Lifts private lands in Grizzly Gulch for Forest Service base lands in Alta.
A major landmark of the CWNCRA is the addition of 8,000 new acres of Wilderness areas, spanning the tri-canyon area. This includes a newly proposed Grander Peak/Mount Aire Wilderness area and expansions to the currently existing Lone Peak, Mount Olympus, and Twin Peak Wilderness areas. As Wilderness designations preclude mechanized and motorized travel within its boundaries, mountain bike and trails advocates raised concern over the potential loss of access to iconic trails for mountain bikers, namely the popular Bonneville Shoreline Trail, and the White Pine trail. In the current iteration, mountain biking is prohibited in White Pine (which would be a change from the current law of the land that allows for mountain biking on White Pine trail). In exchange, stakeholders from the conservation community, mountain bike community and trails community have negotiated an existing wilderness boundary adjustment to allow full access for mountain bikers to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.
Monday’s vote was the culmination of years of effort from stakeholders, many of which contributed to and signed the landmark Mountain Accord. The draft approval also comes on the heels of a months-long outreach efforts by CWC staff with community councils, organizations, businesses, private citizens, and canyon property owners.
Since June, CWC staff and Commissioners have taken meetings with Millcreek Community Council, East Millcreek Community Council, Mount Olympus Community Council, Big Cottonwood Community Council, and Granite Community Council. CWC staff have briefed members of the Congressional Delegation and given project area tours. Staff and Commissioners have briefed City and County Councils in the project area, and met with private citizens to speak about the legislation and its effect. The CWC met with business owners that have stake in the Canyons, and nonprofit organizations along the Wasatch Front and Back.
Staff, Commissioners, and stakeholders have met and communicated nearly without any break over the last four months with the goal of reaching an agreement among all stakeholders on the language and substance of the CWNCRA. With the new Board approval of the CWNCRA, this outreach and communication throughout the community will not stop.
Where We Go From Here
Now that the 10/26/18 CWNCRA has been approved, CWC will make technical changes to the legislation and corresponding maps in order to hand off a clean version to Utah’s Congressional Delegation. CWC staff will continue to work with Utah’s delegation to keep them informed and ready to take on this legislation in Congress.
The Salt Lake Tribune — Brian Maffly[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]