Rep. Jim Matheson unveils his bill to protect Wasatch watershed and canyons.
With the bill, more than 26,000 additional acres will be added to the current wilderness in the Salt Lake County, mostly on Mt. Olympus or in the Cottonwood canyon areas. It will also immediately create two new wilderness areas, including one named after the late U.S. Rep. Wayne Owens, and add acreage to other existing wilderness areas. A third new wilderness area will also be created by the bill, but it will not happen until current heliskiing permit holders cease operations. (For a map of the lands impacted by this proposal, click here.)
Matheson introduced his bill to the public during a news conference April 1, but formally introduced it to Congress today. In a news release, Matheson says that the bill was the result of working with many different "stakeholders." The primary goal is to protect the watershed and preserve the wilderness surrounding urbanized Salt Lake County for continued outdoor recreation.
Not everyone is on board, however. Alta Mayor Tom Pollard told The Salt Lake Tribune that the bill was "kind of shoved down our throat," while Solitude management is skeptical of the bill because it would designate wilderness adjacent to the resorts. Snowbird has apparently given their okay, since the bill also include a land swap between the U.S. Forest Service and Snowbird.
Update: The land Alta wants to use for their avalanche protection lift (see above linked Trib story) is owned by Snowbird and part of the land swap between Snowbird and USFS, according to Matheson press secretary Alyson Heyrend. That is not made very clear in the previously published stores (at least, not clear to me).