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MEETING IN JUNE PLANNED ON EXPANSION OF SNOWBASIN

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Environmentalists, developers and government officials will meet in mid-June in an attempt to resolve the dispute for expansion of the Snowbasin ski resort.

Pat Sheehan, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, also said Friday that a professional mediator from Seattle will also join the group."They've agreed to come and talk," Sheehan said. "We'd like to see some common agreement. We really think that's in the best public interest."

The controversy over the plan to expand Snowbasin began last year when the ski-resort owner, Earl Holding, wanted to swap 1,320 acres of private land with public lands managed by the Forest Service.

The Sun Valley Co., owner of the resort, wanted to expand Snowbasin into a four-season development featuring condominiums, homes, a golf course and expanded ski facilities. On the other side, environmentalists want the public lands left alone and want the Forest Service to stick to its original decision.

Dale Bosworth, Wasatch-Cache Forest supervisor, made a decision in February to swap only 220 acres of federal land and appeals were filed. Now Intermountain Regional Forester Stan Tixier must decide by July 2 what to do, if anything, with those appeals.

But Sheehan said the government would like all interested parties to sit down and talk to see if they can resolve their differences. He said if the groups came to an agreement, then Tixier would abide by it.

"We really think there's an opportunity to bring this issue to a settlement," Sheehan said.

Those who will meet June 15 to take part in the mediation process are Orville Tice, a professional mediator; Susan Gianattino, current Wasatch-Cache Forest supervisor; Chris Peterson, Sun Valley Co.; John Bellmon, Audubon Society; and Al Rivas, the Sierra Club.

Sheehan said representatives from Ogden City and Weber County will also sit in on the talks.

Sheehan also said Friday that the Forest Service has received thousands of names from hundreds of petitions voicing their opinion both pro and con about the land swap issue.

"That's a very strong statement from the public, from both sides," Sheehan said. "We think we're being sensitive to all the issues involved."