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Public-Private Land Swaps Taken Off Utah Rec Legislation

Utah-Bus Environmentalists will turn focus to public transportation to four resorts up Utah canyons above Salt Lake City. (Snowbird/Facebook)

A property exchange concept that would've added much-desired commercial space around the base of four Utah resorts didn't hold up under the appraisers' eyes and, thus, has been scrapped.

The legislation still includes the establishment of the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area in mountains east of Salt Lake City.

Proponents of the Mountain Accord – an ambitious collaboration designed to protect public lands and the water they provide for Salt Lake City – had pressed for legislation to include land swaps between the U.S. Forest Service and ski resorts Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton up Little and Big Cottonwood canyons, respectively.

The idea incorporates putting a patchwork of privately held mining claims high in the Wasatch Mountains into the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest while turning public lands near the resorts' base areas into private lands available for development at the resorts. Visitors have long known that commercial outlets at these resorts are inadequate for the number of skiers and snowboarders who come up the canyons each winter.

An example was some 1,400 acres on the north side of Little Cottonwood Canyon owned by Snowbird for 400 acres of public lands in the newly developed Mineral Basin ski and snowboard area to the south of the resort.

However, Salt Lake City media reported that appraisals of steep, high-country lands such as Snowbird's holdings came in much lower than bottomlands for which they were going to be traded. One comparison indicated that lands that in the high terrain were valued at as little as 1:200 compared with base area property.

“Based on what we learned from an initial appraisal, combined with new information from the Forest Service regarding what lands they would take, and, more importantly, would not take in a land exchange, it no longer seemed the land exchange, as originally envisioned, in the Mountain Accord, was viable,” said Snowbird's Dave Fields told local media.

Mountain Accord proponents have announced they will turn their attention to the challenge of transporting thousands of skiers and riders up the canyons just outside Salt Lake City while tracking the environmental health of the region.

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