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An aggressive environmental group is losing a lawyer and KSL TV is losing a political reporter as a Utah power couple head to Colorado.

Heidi McIntosh, John Daley and their 9-year-old daughter plan to relocate sometime this holiday season after McIntosh accepted a job as the managing attorney for Earthjustice's Denver office, where she will lead a team of litigators focused on environmental issues throughout the Intermountain West.

"I still expect to be involved here in Utah. It is so long but not goodbye," said McIntosh, who has been one of the leading voices at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance since 1991.

She leaves her job this Friday. Daley will remain at KSL through the election and its immediate aftermath before joining his spouse to Denver. His final day on air will likely take place before Thanksgiving. He has been a fixture at KSL for 14 years and spent three years before that at ABC 4. While he has focused largely on politics, Daley began as a reporter on the Olympics beat.

"It has been a great ride here for both of us," said Daley, who grew up in Denver. "Sometimes opportunities come up that you just have to jump at and this is one of them."

McIntosh is an Arizona native and Georgetown-trained lawyer, who started as a commercial litigator for a large law firm in Los Angeles. She disliked the work and the lifestyle, deciding she needed to find a career that aligned with her passion — the outdoors. She enrolled at the University of Utah to get a master of environmental law degree and began working for SUWA, initially for free.

"To make a living at something I deeply valued is a privilege that I never took for granted," she said.

Through the years, she has become the point person on contentious R.S. 2477 road rights-of-way disputes.

Congress repealed that law in 1976, but grandfathered in roads that had been in continuous public use. The state has claimed that hundreds of trails and pathways in undeveloped Utah lands qualify as roads available for public use, while McIntosh and SUWA argue that those lands deserve federal wilderness protections that would block access to motorized vehicles.

SUWA executive director Scott Groene credited McIntosh for successfully defending the red rock.

"She almost single handedly prevented the state of Utah from ripping apart our wilderness proposal with R.S. 2477 claims," he said. "We are going to miss her leadership and her legal skills, but we are also excited for this adventure for her and her family."

SUWA and Earthjustice wage similar battles, just on different scales. Earthjustice, is a leading environmental law organization, headquartered in San Francisco but has offices throughout the nation.

McIntosh's legal team will delve into issues of climate change, coal, forest protections and R.S. 2477 claims, including cases in Utah.

"I imagine we will continue to work alongside Heidi on those cases," Groene said.

Her position at SUWA has kept her at odds with Utah's political establishment, which has sought greater control of the lands, in large part for energy development, but despite the often testy relationship, she has earned the respect of officials like Cody Stewart, Gov. Gary Herbert's energy adviser.

"Heidi is a tireless and articulate advocate for her beliefs," Stewart said. "Colorado is getting a strong proponent for wilderness."

Jeff Hartley, a Utah lobbyist for energy developers, gave McIntosh a more backhanded compliment.

"Earthjustice seems like a perfect fit for her," he said. "Their rather extreme agenda fits her rather extreme agenda."

Hartley said McIntosh is a nice person and he said SUWA "is in good hands" with attorney Steve Bloch, who will likely take over R.S. 2477 negotiations.

"He is an admirable foe," Hartley said.

Twitter: @mattcanham

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