Mountain Accord Board Examines options
for Federal Designations in Central Wasatch
Mountain Accord stakeholders took another step Monday toward seeking to create a special federal designation in the Central Wasatch Range with the goal of preserving the environment and recreational opportunities within this treasured area.
The board is studying options for drafting a bill to present to Congress that will give special designation to 91,991 acres in the Central Wasatch Range. The area under consideration would be a combination of existing U.S. Forest Service and Wilderness-designated land.
The idea, said Accord Federal Designation Task force member Brad Barber, is to present to Congress a bill that would preserve existing wilderness areas and enhance protections on the existing forest service land to reflect the unique nature of the area and preserve its traditional uses for future generations. Stake holders are examining existing naming designations like “National Recreation Area” or “National Conservation Area.” However a new option emerged Barber said, and asked board members to consider an entirely new category of federally protected land: “A National Conservation and Recreation Area.”
“This would be a new animal,” Barber said. “There are, of course, National Recreation Areas but a lot of people don’t think that truly reflects what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to balance the appropriate amount of restriction and management. In the area we’re looking at, we want a higher level of management for the entire area and everybody on the task force can come back and support that.”
Although all federal land comes with a certain level of management, there are degrees. Wilderness areas, for example, are among the most restricted federal lands, while Forest Lands allow for many uses (including lumber and mineral extraction). Specially designated, specially named areas like a National Conservation and Recreation Area allow a community to build in a management strategy that is specific to unique landscapes.
“We are free to design this bill however we want,” said Mountain Accord Program Manager Laynee Jones following the meeting. “We all just need to agree on what we want to send to Congress. But I think its pretty amazing that we have everyone at this table agreeing on the goal of creating a new federally protected area within the Central Wasatch.”
The Mountain Accord Executive Board is working on signing the Mountain Accord in mid-July. The historic document is an unprecedented public statement toward building consensus about long-term plans for the Central Wasatch.