Monday, August 20, 2012

How much do you love your Wasatch?

Well, I've had a lot of great summer, and really a great year.  Spending time in France, Switzerland, Italy, Canada, and Panama.  Yet whenever I leave for long periods of time I still dream about home.  Home for me is the Wasatch Mountains, with a short drive to the desert, the Tetons, City of Rocks, San Juans, Red Rocks, or even Joshua Tree.  But really my heart is in the Wasatch, which is why I feel I must share with you my thoughts on the SkiLink.  Talisker Corporation is a Canadian Development company that recently acquired Canyon's Ski Resort for 123 million and has since attempted to revoke Park City Ski Resort's Land Lease, bulldozed hundreds of trees, built unnecessary lifts, constructed artificial lakes, and many more atrocities against a fragile economical balance as well as devastated the land it owns in the Wasatch.  Now it is attempting to buy a strip of land right through the heart of the Wasatch to connect it with the other cottonwood resorts.  Rather than take the usual route of purchasing land from the forest service, its going straight to congress with the help of Representative Rob Bishop of District 1 to bypass the normal process and keep the public out of the public land transfer.  The bill is labelled H.R. 3452 Wasatch Range Recreation Access Enhancement Act, and it has nothing to do with Recreation Enhancement, only creating more revenue for Talisker.

After complaining for a long time, I final took some action, and more than the usual internet petition signing.  I wrote letters to my Senators, and Representatives, and Rob Bishop himself asking for some sanity in the giving away of our only real renewable resource in utah.  As you probably already know, I am a terrible writer so please be patient with the grammer, spelling, and general confusion.  Here it is:

After spending my youth growing up in Utah I spent over half a decade away in other parts of the US. Since then I have traveled to every continent except Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. There are many amazing and beautiful places on this earth. Most of them filled with their own Unique beauty. However, something even more Unique is right in front of us in Utah. A wonderful, diverse, landscape or mountains, desert, plateaus, lakes, salt flats, slot canyons and more. I understand the the economic progress of our state is very important, however, I'm writing because I also want the economic and natural future to remain in tact. This will only hurt our future economic opportunity: Think Utah lake, a once wonderful resource now ruined forever by a steel plant that now only provides an eye sore, and a toxic hole.

The Wasatch Front is one of the smallest mountain ranges in the country yet is located closer to a major city than any other recreational location in the US. It brings in millions if not billions of outside revenue into our state. Yet as ski resorts become more exotic and prices rise toward $100 a lift ticket, skier numbers have stopped growing; it is becoming a sport of the elite. However, backcountry user groups like mountain bikers, hikers, snow shoers, hunters, fishermen, are all growing rapidly. The Wasatch Mountains already contains 7 resorts within 20 miles or less of Salt Lake City which occupy a huge amount of the Wasatch Mountains. In fact, they cover so much of the mountains, its possible to ski from one resort to the next, and go to every one of the 7 resorts without the use of additional transportation other than the lifts already in place. You can already ski from the Canyons to Solitude. Or Solitude to Brighton, or Brighton to Park City, and so on. The skilink doesn't even connect the the two towns, it connects the top of Canyons Resort to the bottom of Solitude mountain Resort. There is no transportation advantage. In order to travel from Canyon's top of Solitude it would take at least 5 lift rides, and only provides an exclusive group of users to access both resorts. If the State of Utah was serious about an intermountain transportation system they would have a centralized system that is accessible from multiple resorts and efficient for more than just the two farthest out locations. With some work a system that works for all resorts could be designed that did not encroach on pristine wilderness. I.E. via the Guardsman Pass road. Adding the skilink as is, alienates Utah's own local resorts (Park City, Dear Valley, Brighton, and Alta/SnowBird) and gives the advantage to the Canadian real-estate company. Thus requiring yet multiple skilink's for the other resorts to compete, and of course cause the possible loss of the majority of the forest land. 

The addition of the 'skilink' would slice through the center of one of the few uninterrupted sections of land left in the Wasatch and permanently damage the habitat as well as degrade the natural beauty of the area. I've built ski lifts before, and the damage done to the environment to build something this size is unrepairable, especially to a wilderness that is already so delicate. Worst of all is the fact that the bill bypasses the National Forest Service, an organization designed by our government to manage our forest land in a way that is conscious of the present AND the future. If this is so important then bring it before the normal processes to sell, and let the Utah public have a say in their public lands.

Finally, the last thing we need is to give away our precious resources to yet another big company who is not even from the US! We don't need Canadian developers taking over our forest land for their own gain. How much could they possibly care? Your local outdoor Industry has spoken, just ask Peter Metcalph, CEO of Black Diamond in Salt Lake City. Are you willing to give up your local companies so that you can bring in a Canadian development company? Your purpose is to represent the people, and the people have spoken. I oppose H.R.3452 - Wasatch Range Recreation Access Enhancement Act.

 Please feel free to copy and past my letter, or change it a little to sound like someone out of elementary school.... Here is a list of my representatives, feel free to send it to them, or send it to yours.  Obviously you can write your own letter too, and I would encourage you too.

Senator Mike Lee
316 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Representative Jim Matheson
2434 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Senator Orrin hatch
104 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Representative Rob Bishop
123 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515