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Health, Science & Environment

Discord From Lawmakers At Mountain Accord Hearing

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Mountain Accord
Supporters of the Mountain Accord, which manages areas of the Wasatch Mountains pictured here, encountered some friction from lawmakers at a congressional hearing on Tuesday.

The Mountain Accord is a plan for protecting the canyons outside the state's most populated county. But the local management plan ran into national politics Tuesday as the coalition behind the Mountain Accord delivered a unified pitch to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Federal Lands.

“You had more than 200 stakeholders over a couple of years come to a broad bipartisan support for this bill,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, sponsor of a bill that takes the next steps to implement the lands plan.

“We happen to live in Utah – particularly Utah’s Third Congressional District – one of the most beautiful places on the planet.”

Chaffetz was flanked by two mayors, Sandy Republican Tom Dolan and Salt Lake City Democrat Jackie Biskupski. The U.S. Forest Service, a ski resort executive, a transportation leader and a conservationist – they all praised legislation that allows land exchanges, fixes wilderness boundaries and offers a path forward to clear up frequent traffic jams.

But Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., openly doubted the compromise. He blamed “liberal” conservationists for a history of bad deals.

“The concessions were all to environmentalists, were all enshrined in the bill,” he said, challenging Chaffetz. “Everything else was a promise that we found out wasn’t kept.”

McClintock wondered aloud if Mountain Accord backers would wind up like those who supported a 2009 Utah lands bill.

“The local government officials all say, ‘We were screwed,’ because that’s what happened in St. George.”

The Mountain Accord bill -- formally called the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act -- has to pass both chambers to become law, but there are just a few working days left before the current congressional session ends. And it’s not clear whether committee members have changes in mind for the bill.

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