Organization hosts open house to discuss public land management for Central Wasatch
Michele Dieterich, a Park City resident and member of the nonprofit organization Save Our Canyons, describes herself as a “radical environmentalist” who would like to see the backcountry in the Central Wasatch Mountains protected.
Dieterich said she and her husband spend a significant amount of time on Park City’s ridgeline mountain biking, trail running and backcountry skiing. While she said they frequent the backcountry often and “kind of go all over,” she feels the land needs to remain protected from development and overuse.
“I would like to see some of the industries out and ski industries stopped,” she said. “They have to say enough at some point. The summer recreation needs to stop as well. It’s not an amusement park. It’s a national forest. It’s the watershed for a lot of the canyon and Cottonwoods. We really need to be thinking about our future, our children’s future and our grandchildren’s future and what they will be able to enjoy.”
Save Our Canyons, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the wilderness and beauty of the Wasatch Mountains, hosted an open house on Thursday at the Park City Library to receive input, like Dieterich’s, about how Summit County and Park City residents would like to see public lands managed. More than a dozen residents attended the open house.
Carl Fisher, executive director of Save Our Canyons, said the organization does not have as strong of a presence in Summit County as it does in Salt Lake County communities. He said the event was intended to extend the group’s outreach and receive input from residents along the Wasatch Back about federal land management initiatives.
“We wanted to have a conversation about the Mountain Accord and other federal initiatives,” he said. “We are hoping to start working toward reintroducing the Central Wasatch Recreational act, which was before Congress about a year ago.”
The now-defunct Mountain Accord was created in 2012 as a collaborative effort to create a cohesive plan for the central Wasatch Mountains to address growth and development issues related to the environment, transportation, the economy and recreation. A bill was developed through the process that proposed a federal land designation for land exchanges and protections in the Central Wasatch Mountains.
The Mountain Accord transformed into the Central Wasatch Commission to allow the agency to seek, hold and distribute funds, and enter into contracts on behalf of the participating stakeholders. But, it was not intended to have authority over local land uses or tax levies.
“We think that was a good process and there were some great ideas that came out of that process,” Fisher said. “I guess what we want to understand is what folks in the community thought about some of those ideas. We want to make sure these things are still relevant and are important to people. If not, what types of adjustments need to be made?”
Fisher pointed out that there is not as much public land on “our side of the hill.” But, he added, “We also don’t think just because there isn’t as much public land in Summit County your voice should be left out of the conversation.” He said the input from the open house will be compiled in the coming weeks with the hope of returning to Park City to continue the dialogue.
“We really want to understand what people’s values are up there and want to understand what some of the issues of importance are to folks,” he said.
Fisher highlighted the effort to purchase Bonanza Flat as a “huge success.” He said it showed the effect nonprofit land organizations can have on preserving public lands. Save Our Canyons is currently involved in the discussions about the long-term management of Park City-owned Bonanza Flat.
“When our community joins together we can achieve amazing things and we want to build on that success and get to work,” he said. “We can do some positive things with our environment. We have an opportunity here to do better with our lands.”
Rob Deyerberg, a Park City resident and outdoor enthusiast, said he attended the open house because he views Save Our Canyons as one of the more important organizations at the forefront of land management issues.
“It’s very, very important to me because I get out there. I’m a junkie,” he said. “I’m always thinking about how I would like to see this land managed. I would like to see an emphasis on conservation and non-motorized recreation opportunities. Any development needs to be pragmatic and not just for the money, but for future generations to enjoy and benefit from and not at the cost of the more valuable non developed lands.”
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