Park City wants feds to remain in control of lands |

Park City wants feds to remain in control of lands

Leaders see acreage as ‘backbone’ of outdoor recreation

by Jay Hamburger

The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest east of Park City is a popular destination for recreation lovers and people out for a scenic drive. The national forest is a high-profile tract of federal land in Summit County and is seen as important to the areas outdoors industry. The Park City Council on Thursday passed a resolution outlining that Washington should continue to control federal lands.

Park City leaders on Thursday formally endorsed a position that Washington should continue to control federal lands rather than the tracts being transferred to the control of states or sold to the private sector.

The Park City Council passed a resolution on a 4-0 vote with Tim Henney absent. The resolution was not controversial in Park City, but it addresses a polarizing topic in the state and the region.

The elected officials received testimony in favor of the resolution but only briefly discussed the topic before casting a vote. Andy Beerman, a member of the City Council, said Park City must tactfully decide which topics outside of the city limits it presses. The resolution deals with an issue critical to the community, he said.

There is little federal land within the Park City limits, but Mayor Jack Thomas and the City Council see the issue as something that has effects on the city nonetheless. The two-page resolution covers topics like recreation and the environment.

"Park City's attraction to businesses, employers, employees, and tourists are a significant component of the local economy which is dependent on the high quality of life arising out of the expansive wild landscapes and outdoor recreational opportunities available," the resolution says.

It says public lands are "the backbone" to the outdoor recreation industry and the loss of the lands or access by the public to the acreage "would have damaging consequences for Park City's economy and harm the health and welfare of residents and visitors."

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The resolution also notes that preserving public lands is important to environmental planning meant to cut greenhouse gases and that forests on federal lands "function as carbon storage critical to climate health." The leaders in the resolution also say transferring of lands out of federal control would "undermine the value of the communities ongoing investment in its open space programs."

There were supporters in the audience as the City Council passed the resolution. Some of them wore stickers urging that public lands remain under government ownership. Peter Gatch, a Park Meadows resident, told the elected officials the lands are important to tourism, outdoor recreation and the state economy.

"If management of the many millions of acres of the federal public lands here in Utah were transferred from the federal government over to the state of Utah, I believe for our state to take on the burden of having to pay for the high price of managing these lands, new development, privatization, locked gates, no trespassing signs and fossil fuel extraction on these spectacular iconic wild lands would be inevitable. The extraction industries go through boom and bust cycles, tourism and outdoor recreation are sustainable," Gatch said in his prepared remarks.

Gatch also mentioned the desire to protect the designations of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Nearly all the federal land in Summit County is located outside the Park City limits, in places like the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The Summit County Council recently adopted a resolution regarding federal land covering some of the same issues as the one approved by the City Council on Thursday.