Wasatch Environmental Update for October 23, 2016
By John Worlock, Member of the Board of Directors of Save Our Canyons
“Politics Stalls Mountain Accord”
After many long months of negotiations the agreement called Mountain Accord was forged. Its intent was to find a long-term solution for the preservation of the essential properties of the Central Wasatch Mountains and Canyons. Participants in this process were, as you perhaps remember, from federal, state, county and municipal officials, along with commercial, recreational and environmental interests. Save Our Canyons is proud to have been a stalwart participant from the beginning.
This process was celebrated, but by no means ended, with the formal signing, by all participants of The Mountain Accord, in a ceremony in August last year.
What followed was the creation of a congressional bill that embodied many of the provisions of the Accord. That bill’s sponsors are three of the Utah delegation to Congress, Representatives Chaffetz, Love and Stewart. Its name is the “Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act.” It would create its namesake National Conservation and Recreation Area, protecting all of the publicly owned acreage in the Tri-Canyon area of the Wasatch, while specifying some beneficial land-exchanges between ski resorts and the forest service and providing a pathway toward solving the vexing transportation problems of vehicular access into the canyons. We are hopeful, while in no way sanguine, about its passage in the current congress.
Meanwhile, some of the provisions of the Mountain Accord are left to the local governments affected by it. A proposal has emerged to create a Central Wasatch Commission, which would, in contrast to the Mountain Accord, be an official governmental entity. It would have an advisory group composed largely of members of the executive committee of Mountain Accord, but would be legally separate.
We applaud this proposal. However, local politics in Salt Lake County is holding this idea hostage. A variety of aggrieved and noisy land-owners in the Cottonwood Canyons have mounted a campaign to discredit the Mountain Accord process and to attack the Salt Lake County mayor of personal benefit from its processes. Some of these same forces are involved in simultaneously trying to loosen the grip of Salt Lake City on its jurisdiction over the important watershed.
We hope they subside after election day, November 8, but we may be asking for your help with contacting your local lawmakers.