Congressman Jim Matheson, backed by across-the-board support from numerous Utah municipalities, outdoor recreation, business and environmental groups today introduced federal legislation that would expand wilderness and enhance watershed protection over more than 26,000 acres of the Wasatch Front canyons. Matheson introduced the Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act--H.R. 4267-- in the U.S. House.
"Ever since the Mormon pioneers camped by the mouth of City Creek in 1847, our prosperity and our quality of life has been linked to the abundant, clean water flowing from these canyons. The honest effort that produced this legislation builds on that legacy so that this precious resource is there for our children and grandchildren," said Matheson.
Matheson said the bill creates new and additional wilderness areas on Grandeur Peak, Mt. Olympus, Twin Peaks, and Lone Peak; sets aside more than 10,000 acres within "special management areas" to strengthen watershed protection while continuing permitted use by helicopter skiing; and resolves a conflict between backcountry skiers and Snowbird ski resort's proposed expansion into White Pine Canyon. It also provides access to maintain private water supplies and allows for avalanche control to ensure public safety.
"For 25 years, many stakeholders have talked about the goal of watershed protection and enhanced recreation in the Wasatch Canyons. With this legislation, a locally-driven, open and transparent public lands collaboration will provide a path forward to accomplish that goal," said Matheson.
Stakeholders, including Salt Lake City, and Salt Lake County, praised the result.
"Congressman Matheson's Wasatch Wilderness Bill is a proposal critical not just to the 500,000 residents who rely on the pristine water resources of our canyon watersheds, but to every Utahn," said Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker. "This effort is a benchmark of legislative process, one that relies on collaboration and public process to seek protections with expansive, positive impacts on our economy, quality of life and long-term prosperity."
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said, "With the significant growth of our population who depend on our mountains for water, it is more important than ever to protect our critical lands. Our mountains are also a place of respite and recreation. We need to maintain these glorious creations of nature of generations to come."
"The Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act not only protects some of the most treasured landscapes in the central Wasatch, it is a symbol that despite our differences, communities, local governments, the federal government, and industry can come together to do incredible things for the places we love and future generations," said Carl Fisher, executive director, Save Our Canyons.
"Snowbird is pleased to support this bill and its proposed additional lands for wilderness designation and preservation for the Wasatch Front while at the same time considering making additional lands available for sustainable, managed, outdoor recreational opportunities for our community and growing populations," said Snowbird Ski Resort General Manager Bob Bonar.
Matheson said this legislation improves on his 2010 version. It addresses suggestions made at a Congressional hearing on the earlier bill, and it includes changes proposed by some stakeholders, clarifying management objectives.