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FOREST SERVICE DEAL STILL AWAITS OLYMPIC APPROVAL

An agreement between the U.S. Forest Service and Olympic organizers wasn't signed at a press conference as planned because it hasn't been approved by the trustees responsible for running the 2002 Winter Games.

The document outlines the relationship between the federal agency and the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee and pledges both will work together to put on an environmentally sound Winter Games.James Lyons, a U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary, intended to sign the memorandum of understanding with the organizing committee during a visit to Utah on Tuesday.

But the morning press conference was canceled after organizing committee officials said the document hadn't been reviewed yet by their board of trustees.

"We're not ready to sign anything yet. It has to go to the board," organizing committee spokesman Mike Korologos said. Korologos said Olympic organizers met privately with Forest Service officials Tuesday.

John Hoagland, Forest Service winter sports specialist for the Intermountain Region said there were a few changes in the document suggested by Olympic organizers.

For example, they said portions of the document were too vague, Hoagland said, promising a revised version would be ready for the Olympic trustees in a month.

He said the memorandum of understanding will establish the role the Forest Service plays in the Olympics but not the details of how it will be carried out.

"This agreement is just to set the stage for that. It's fairly general. It says we want to work together," Hoagland said, citing promoting environmental education as a common goal.

Only one of the competition sites planned for the 2002 Winter Games currently involves Forest Service property, the downhill and super giant slalom at Snowbasin.

However, Forest Service land near Snow Basin may be used for the cross country and biathlon events. The venue is proposed for the Mountain Dell golf course, but athletes want a permanent site for training and competition.

Environmentalists are challenging the federal agency's approval of a new lift at Snowbasin to access the planned downhill course. The Citizens Committee to Save Our Canyons filed a federal lawsuit against the Forest Service, asking the court to stop Snowbasin from starting work on the John Paul ski lift.

The suit, filed May 30, says the Forest Service didn't follow the Environmental Policy Act when it OK'd Snowbasin's request to build the lift and open the new ski terrain.

The suit, filed May 30, is pending in U.S. District Court.