The Fonz under attack in the Cottonwoods? Wasatch updates and actions

More than just the seasons have been changing since our last action alert.

At Save Our Canyons we’ve seen a few significant campaign wins, moved into the second phase of the Mountain Accord process, completed our Central Wasatch Visitor Survey, witnessed Governor Herbert soften his stance on monuments in Utah, and, almost as monumental for us – welcomed a new staff member to the Save Our Canyons team. There are also a few important items that have lain dormant through autumn, but which promise to come roaring back to life in the new year. Of course, when that happens we’ll need to make sure the Save Our Canyons community is prepared and ready to engage.

First, let’s focus on our victories:

Roadless Areas Preserved!

Last week SOC and our allies saw a campaign victory 12 years in the making. The Forest Service, deciding in our favor, opted to protect 20,000 acres in the Willard Peak and Mollen’s Hollow Roadless Areas, two of the largest roadless areas in northern Utah. The judge ordered proposals for new motorized trails in these areas and required the FS to improve signage in areas where illegal off-road vehicle use has resulted in erosion and vegetation loss.

To read more, click HERE!

Mountain Planning District

By a 7 to 2 vote, the Salt Lake County Council created a Mountain Planning District to ensure better community representation for land use planning in the Wasatch. The Mountain Planning District is a brilliant and elegant solution to the pressing problem of the Wasatch becoming more and more fragmented as cities and districts plan only for their small portion of the Wasatch and not for the region as a whole.

The Mountain Planning District will allow for a more holistic planning process for the central Wasatch, one where the district – spanning from City Creek to Utah County will be looked at in its entirety, and no longer in fragmented shards without respect to the integrity of the Wasatch as a whole.

While this was a significant victory, it’s one that we need to continue engaging with and fighting for. At the bequest of Snowbird, the legislation that enabled the MPD included a sunset provision. Now we need SOC and our members to work for the removal of that sunset provision during the next legislative session. Be on the watch in the coming month for more information about how to get involved to preserve the Mountainous Planning District!

For more info, read HERE!

More Items to Watch

Not at all related to The Fonz and Happy Days…

Foothill Canyon Overlay Zone (FCOZ) is one of the most critical tools in our toolbox for protecting the Wasatch. Not surprisingly, it’s also a tool that, because of its efficacy, the ski resorts are always looking to weaken. Most recently, the resorts are attacking FCOZ by cutting stream bed setbacks, slope protections and other zoning provisions that make sure private land, while remaining private, isn’t developed in a way that distracts from the beauty and integrity of the larger Wasatch.

Polls, as well as our recent Visitor Survey conducted by USU – more on this in a bit, show that most Utahns want less development in the Wasatch. The stronger provisions within FCOZ, the more this tool helps protect the Wasatch and keeps in line with what we all want to see – strong protections guaranteeing that the most ostentatious and eye-grabbing things in our canyons are the canyons themselves and not the private developments within them.

This is one to be on the lookout for: Mountain Resort Zones will allow for the resorts to better design around their base areas while emphasizing needs for protection of more mountainous areas. While ostensibly this new mountain resort zoning is a good thing, we’ll need to remain vigilant to ensure that it’s not abused.

Central Wasatch Visitor Survey

Save Our Canyons, in partnership with Salt Lake City, the Forest Service, Utah State University and with the help of some extraordinary AmeriCorps interns, recently completed our Visitor Survey to better understand recreation in the Wasatch and create an objective data set to guide future management. Some of the take aways from this first of it’s kind survey? View the CWVS reports HERE

  • A majority of visitors highly identify their reason for visiting the Wasatch to be enjoying scenic beauty, enjoying the sight sounds and smells of nature, and improving physical and mental health.
  • 98% of people responded as being somewhat to very satisfied with their experience in the Wasatch
  • 82% of respondents want to see no more development with the canyons
  • 70% of all visitors live within 60 miles of Brighton Ski Resort

Many of you probably saw earlier this week that Governor Herbert – at least for a moment – softened his stance on National Monuments in Utah. Let’s show our leaders we want action on our public lands! If you haven’t already, please sign SOC’s petition for establishing a Wasatch National Monument – HERE!

And finally, we’re elated to announce that Save Our Canyons has hired a new staff member! Rob DeBirk has signed on as our new policy director!

He’ll be working shoulder to shoulder with our executive director, Carl Fisher, to make sure the strongest policies possible are in place to protect and preserve the Wasatch. Here’s his bio if you want to read more.

Stop and say hi when you see Rob, whether that be at county zoning meetings, on the Hill working legislation, or in the mountains recreating and recovering from his time on the Hill and at county zoning meetings.

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