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Robinson Outlines New Direction For Central Wasatch Commission

Summit County

The Central Wasatch Commission is hitting the “reset” button,  according to the new Chairman of the Commission—Summit County Council Member Chris Robinson.

Robinson reported Jan. 8th that as part of its revised mission, the CWC has put aside, but not abandoned, the federal preservation bill it attempted to launch about four years ago.   

Chris Robinson reported to his colleagues on the County Council that the CWC had its first meeting under his chairmanship on January 6th.

He said the CWC has decided to put the proposed  Central Wasatch National Conservation and Preservation Area on a side-burner for now, since the parties don’t seem to have a consensus.

Instead, the group will focus on three different areas, with a sub-committee of three Commission Members on each topic and Robinson as the Chair touching base with each.

He said the first topic would be Legislation and Land Tenure.      

“The Land Tenure part is to figure out the importance of dealing with the private lands, both that the ski resorts own and want to get rid of, and that third parties own in the canyons, as well as dealing with the resorts’ desire to own in fee simple their base properties.   In many instances they have a building on a federal lease, which is not ideal, if you’re in business to run a business.    They pay rent, but it’s just not as good as owning.   So that’s part of it.”

He said when the Conservation area was introduced in 2016 by Congressman Jason Chaffetz, members of the group, then called Mountain Accord, signed an agreement that was fairly specific about what the proposal contained.       

“It talked about additional wilderness, actual polygons of lands to potentially be traded and those that would be received for trading, talked about special-use areas.   And then it talked about transportation in kind of some broad things like we’re gonna study these things.  These are potential options.”

However, headlines late last year announced that four Front Range ski resorts were backing away from proposed land swaps, where they would give up some of their mountainside terrain, in order to obtain public land at the resort bases.   Robinson told us then, there were some disagreements about the land values to be traded.

The second major topic in the new plan would be transportation.    Along with that, Robinson said UDOT’s role with the CWC has changed.      

“One of the problems too is that UDOT pulled away from the Commission.  Carlos Braceras used to be on it, he was the chief.   He was always uncomfortable being among a bunch of elected, kind of being the governor’s representative, but really with no portfolio.   I mean, he couldn’t really speak for the governor, and it was an awkward thing.    So he withdrew.   UDOT has kinda just focused, and they’re working on what they call a Little Cottonwood Canyon EIS, which is studying the area from the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon along Wasatch Boulevard and then running up Little Cottonwood Canyon, looking at all modes of transportation.”

Robinson said their group wants to take a more wholistic approach than UDOT has adopted.       

“Many of us on the CWC think that that may be a great exercise, but it is too limited in scope.  And decisions that may be made there may foreclose others.    So the transportation committee would be trying to come up with consensus ideas on the whole Wasatch instead of just on that canyon.”

The third major goal, he said, would be short-term and fairly inexpensive projects that the CWC can take on.    Robinson said the Wasatch Commission wants to accomplish some items, rather than just hold meetings.

The Conservation Area proposal included some federal land that slops over into Summit County—an area referred to as The Monitors.    Robinson said local constituents certainly care about that area, but there is no separate effort at this time to get those mountainsides preserved.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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