April 15, 2015

Op-Ed: Mountain Accord Is Utahns' Chance to Shape the Future by Carl Fisher

Your voice matters!  Mountain Accord comment period closes MAY 1, 2015. Send comments to   - Edit: the comment period is now closed. This post remains for archival purposes. 

By Carl Fisher, Executive Director of Save Our Canyons

This past week, both chambers of Congress passed a non-binding budget resolution to sell or give away all our public lands other than national parks and monuments. Let’s also not forget that our local congressional delegation opted to pursue the sale and development of our watershed and national forest via “SkiLink,” passing over a compromise consensus conservation package that would have placed additional protections on our cherished Wasatch Mountains.

At the local level, our Legislature nibbles away at the land use management act every year, stripping local government’s ability to enact ordinances to protect our watersheds from development and degradation. A few short years ago the state Legislature, at the request of the ski industry, passed a resolution to expedite the process to interconnect all the ski areas. Today, we see the construction of restaurants and conference centers on top of our once hidden peaks instead of the enacting proactive conservation strategies — all this despite overwhelming public support for protection of our wild spaces and watersheds

So why Mountain Accord? Because the built environments of the Wasatch Mountains that exist today are the results of piecemeal jurisdictional decision making, the result of conflict, decisions made by judges evaluating whether an authorization was legal — not whether it was a sage land use decision. The Mountain Accord process is heavily weighted by concerns of the public — the public that skis, the public that hikes, the public that visits on a daily basis, and the public that never sets foot inside our national forest. All voices matter!

Recently, letters have chastised the Mountain Accord, casting it in nefarious light and calling it a problem. The problem isn’t Mountain Accord — the Mountain Accord is attempting to find resolution to the long line of projects that degrade the Wasatch. As our population rises, more and more people will flock to this amazing landscape putting pressures on our water, on opportunities for recreation and solitude, losing the irreplaceable natural beauty and integrity of the Wasatch Mountains. The political environments where decisions get made about this threatened landscape may get friendlier, or more likely, more hostile toward conservation of this resource.

To me, the Mountain Accord is not the problem. It is the opportunity. The problem is the apathy that your voice doesn’t matter, that a small portion of the public makes the decisions. The problem is that while this region of the Wasatch provides water for more than 600,000 people and is host to millions upon millions of annual visits, yet only 1,500 people have submitted comments to the Mountain Accord. Our own apathy is providing a platform for 0.25 percent of Wasatch water drinkers and 0.125 percent of our regional population to be the leading voice in the Mountain Accord. Your leaders are listening and inviting commentary, but few are taking them up on the offer.

The Mountain Accord Blueprint is open for comment until May 1. There are a number of ideas in it, and they all certainly are deserving of our attention and thoughtful analysis. Read it and tell us what you like and don’t like in it.

If we squander this unique opportunity, we’ll revert to piecemeal jurisdictional decision making, rather than engaging collaboratively to make regional decisions for a regional resource. Let’s secure a future that we as a community are proud to pass on to future generations. The cost of Mountain Accord and finding consensus might not be cheap, but the cost of passing this opportunity up and not finding accord to protect the Wasatch is far greater.

Carl Fisher is the executive director of Save Our Canyons and sits on the executive board of Mountain Accord.