The mountains forming Salt Lake City’s stunning backdrop are in danger of being loved to death. But now a new agreement, the Mountain Accord, aims to preserve this important and iconic landscape.
It’s basically a land-use plan for 92,000 acres just east of the Salt Lake Valley. Representatives from ski resorts, conservation groups and government have spent over a year taking input from the public, and they brainstormed solutions to traffic, controversial development and watershed protection. On Monday, Mountain Accord’s executive committee unanimously approved the plan.
“I hope Mountain Accord represents a new era for the Wasatch where we’re not making decisions through lawsuits and fights,” says Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, who cast one of those “yes” votes,
“but we’re making them because we know this is a better path for conserving the precious lands in the Wasatch.”
The agreement asks Congress to create new wilderness areas and set boundaries at the four Cottonwood Canyon ski resorts by the end of next year. Carl Fisher, director of the environmental group Save Our Canyons and a member of the executive committee, sat at the negotiating table across from the developers his group’s fought for years, and he’s pleased with the compromise they reached.
“I would call it a land-use plan with teeth,” says Fisher. “We’ve been talking about how wonderful it would be to protect the Wasatch Mountains for over 25 years. This is the opportunity to actually realize it.”
The accord includes an action plan that starts tackling key issues immediately. It calls for exploring transit solutions, updating trails and prepping public-private land exchanges. It’s also creating a new environmental scorecard. Laynee Jones is the program manager who led the Mountain Accord process.
“There was such a focus and common understanding how this is really the time to act because we have all the stars aligned and we have so much support from a collaborative group.”
Supporters say it’s crucial now to protect Wasatch Mountain resources like drinking water, recreation and world-class skiing as well as the forest itself.