Potential land exchange in American Fork Canyon concerns residents

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Utah County leaders face some tough decisions in the potential development on the land between Utah and Salt Lake Counties.

Tensions build as residents of Utah County band together to protest against a land exchange deal involving American Fork Canyon and Snowbird property.

Salt Lake County residents would gain 1,000 acres of forest while Utah County residents would lose 400 acres of American Fork Canyon to Snowbird. Mountain Vision, an organization brokering the trade, calls for an exchange as soon as possible in the name of preservation for the Central Wasatch Mountains.

Mayors and residents of Utah County argue that Utah County commissioners should wait and understand the effects of the land exchange before any decisions are made.

In recent months the movement to sway public officials against a land swap has continued to build momentum since it was proposed to the public in February 2015.

American Fork City Mayor James Hadfield signed a resolution Thursday, June 23, 2015, urging all parties involved in the potential land exchange to protect the public interest in American Fork Canyon. This resolution, called the Environmental Stewardship of American Fork Canyon Policy, calls for Utah County officials to protect American Fork Canyon against “economic forces that will attempt to utilize public lands or privatize public lands for economic gain to the detriment of lifestyle.”

Many residents are concerned that the land swap could jeopardize the safety of the watershed, the preservation of the canyon’s history, and could hinder the public’s access to the land for recreation. Matt Grass, the communications facilitator of Mountain Accord, disagrees with these concerns.

Grass stated that the public will be able to enjoy the American Fork Canyon in a variety of ways after the exchange is complete. “The Mountain Accord is not a developer. The goal is to create a long-term preservation plan for the Wasatch Mountains,” he said.

Mountain Accord is comprised of elected officials from Salt Lake County and other private organizations. The most recent draft of the Mountain Accord document states that the Mountain Accord organization “was established by a Program Charter in February 2014 to make integrated and critical decisions regarding the future of Utah’s Central Wasatch Mountains.”

Hadfield and other Utah County mayors are concerned that the members of Mountain Accord may not have considered the potential consequences the land exchange could have for their constituents.

“I don’t want to see Mountain Accord facilitate a land swap and make promises in Utah County where its group is from Salt Lake County,” Hadfield said. “That is why I’m involved in this. I want to put the breaks on this until a study has been made on what the future uses are and will be allowed in American Fork Canyon.”

Mountain Accord Executive Committee Co-Chair and Summit County Council Chair Chris Robinson stated in a news release that he welcomes all interested parties in Utah County to make recommendations to Utah County commissioners and to the Mountain Accord executive board.

“Mountain Accord only works because of public involvement, so the fact that people are so passionate about this is good thing,” Grass said.

Utah officials will continue to host meetings to continue discussion with their residents and other interested parties.

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