This past Tuesday (March 7, 2016) was a tough day for the Wasatch Canyons. A big day, with three extremely important items which you’ve been engaged on for years, but in the end… disheartening. At the national level and frighteningly at the local level of government, there’s an ever growing disconnect between elected officials and the people who they purportedly represent.
With a looming deadline on Bonanza Flats and despite the pleas of a number of organizations for Salt Lake County action they were silent. We’ve presented to a number of public officials over the years, but its rare that on an issue of such great importance to the region, are we met with such silence… nothingness. No acknowledgement that they are working on it, or share the concern. Just… nothing. Weeks ago, the Salt Lake County Open Space Board, because of strong citizen input sent a letter to the Salt Lake County Council. That body too, has heard nothing from the Council.
Central Wasatch Commission – Mountain Accord next step
There’s some good and bad with the Central Wasatch Commission. While the Council did pass the Inter-local Agreement (yay!), they changed some key provisions that will require all the other partners to reconsider and adopt the changes (no!). Salt Lake County was to be the last signatory, having already passed the Salt Lake City Council, Cottonwood Heights Council, Sandy City Council months ago. Now, all those entities have to sign the version that the Council modified. Here’s the issue: to this point the Mountain Accord process, its decision making processes, its board and representation has been balanced, based in consensus. The modifications made by the County Council were made in attempt to give Salt Lake County a louder voice in the decision making process than any other entity – flying in the face of everything we’ve worked toward since 2012. Its been said, that power corrupts. We hope that the good faith efforts of the Accord are not corrupted. The Accord, as you all well know, is not “perfect” in our opinion, but outpouring encouragement from you and many partners have pleaded to not let the perfect stand in the way of the good – for in land based decision processes the good can rapidly become what could have been, and is now lost.
Recently, due to accusations over lack of transparency by the Mountain Accord they produced a “Financial Transparency Report” with Zions Bank and data generated throughout the very public process has been on the Accord website for years for review.
Foothills and Canyons Overlay Zone (FCOZ) & Mountain Resort Zone (MRZ)
Working to update land use ordinances for the mountainous regions and ski areas has been a top priority for us since about 2009. Over the years, you’ve written several Mayor’s, no fewer than 30 planning commissioners, attended hours upon hours of meetings, and plastered your council members with emails. Your correspondence has been informed, passionate, thoughtful, timely, and apparently unconvincing. Your unconvincing emails however are in good company, with numerous land owners who live within the canyons asking for stronger environmental protections, numerous university scientists, two of whom are members of the distinguished National Academy of Sciences, watershed managers, the County Mayor, and other conservation and recreation organizations. We’ve asked for science-based, modest protections in our canyons – 100’ set back from any wetland or water feature with no waivers, prohibition on things like mountain coasters, zip lines, and other amusement park type facilities, considerations for wildlife and the impacts that development might have on habitat and species that we share the canyons with, to put greater protections on tree removal and the significance of trees in our canyons, to give the things that have no voice (or that have one through you and me) an opportunity to be considered in policy before being degraded, impacted, or forever lost.
Who is being heard: folks that are saying the Mountain Accord was a closed and not transparent process, many of whom attended almost every Mountain Accord meeting; people who say if the county would just increase the diameter of trees they could fell and be able to build closer to a stream or lake or infill some wetland, they could build more environmentally consciously despite science saying the opposite; people who have snatched up old mining claims for pennies on the dollar and manipulate zoning laws to try to inflate the value for you to then buy back from them at top dollar.
Clock out a few minutes early on Tuesday, March 14th @ 4pm and join fellow Wasatch enthusiasts to demand the council enact bare minimum protections for your Wasatch Canyons and to quit caving to development interests. If they won’t we’ll urge Mayor McAdams to veto their policies that continue the degradation in the Wasatch because of lax development standards, immediately adjacent Wilderness Areas – to a landscape that has been before Congress nearly a dozen times seeking protection.
Bring a co-worker. Bring your family. Bring your biking, hiking and touring partners… but most importantly, bring passion and a few words to urge that the Salt Lake County Council put in place policies that protect our Canyons and the many diverse values. No email for this one folks, you need to be there, in the flesh, just as you are before dawn on a powder day.
- FCOZ and MRZ are the policies that will help to protect some of the most critical areas of our canyons and define what uses will be found up there.
- The Central Wasatch Commission is the legacy for stewardship and preservation of our canyon environments.
- Bonanza Flats is the urgent opportunity to remove some 1,350 acres from the development chopping block.
Each action on its own succeeding to its highest potential is crucial, but collectively, their realization could be truly monumental for the Wasatch, our watershed, our community gathering place, the gem of Northern Utah.