Public lands bill being drafted
September 1, 2015
Summit County is still waiting to hear from Congressman Rob Bishop about a proposed public lands initiative that would expand the wilderness area in the High Uintas. His office is in the process of refining the final language for the bill.
It’s been several months since the County Council submitted its proposal to expand the wilderness designation in the Uinta Mountains and establish two watershed management areas and even longer since the legislation has been mentioned.
Casey Snider, Bishop’s legislative director, recently reviewed the county’s proposal with council members in order to update them because the county is in a "different place than other counties."
"Each county has individually submitted their maps, but some counties have much larger landscapes and there’s much more conflict," Snider told councilors.
Summit County is one of several counties participating in Bishop’s legislation, which stresses compromise between stakeholders as the method of governance for public lands.
The county is proposing to expand the wilderness area in the Uinta Mountains east of Kamas and south of the Mirror Lake Highway by 23,903, acres. If accepted, the proposal will establish two watershed management areas, totaling approximately 11,000 acres, and a Little West Fork Blacks Special Management Area.
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The proposal also stipulates that almost 45 acres of Bureau of Land Management land within Park City and the Snyderville Basin will be conveyed to each entity as open space.
Snider said the bill’s language and an accompanying map is "very much in draft form," but is slated to be released to the public sometime next month.
The bill also includes land in the Wasatch Mountains, which is part of the proposed Mountain Accord initiative.
Brad Barber, chair of the Mountain Accord Federal Designation Task Force, said the final draft language is paramount to stakeholders. Barber has said in the past that legislation, particularly this bill, is an important component of the Mountain Accord process and provides permanent solutions.
"These language issues are critical to many people and we will have to wait to see exactly what the language that Casey produces is," Barber said.
As draft language and a comprehensive map is put together, counties respective proposals could be altered.
According to Lee Lonsberry, communications director for Bishop, as a piece of legislation, it will be subject to amendments and debate.
However, Lonsberry emphasized the collaborative process the map proposals went through to explain how original wishes will be honored as much as possible.
"The spirit of this initiative is designed to include the opinions, views, needs and desires of all the stakeholders. It’s not just those counties’ proposals," Lonsberry said. "Casey has been meeting with individual property owners and grazers and the like and it truly is a process of involving public input at the most local levels."
To view the county’s proposal, go to http://summitcounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/2408.