The Central Wasatch mountains are beloved by those of us who live along both sides of its ridge line. We hike, we bike, we ski, we discover wildlife, we ramble and and amble and find solitude amid one of the world’s most spectacular backyards. And even as these mountains are source of peace and spiritual renewal they are also, literally, the reason life is possible in Utah’s arid climate. More than 500,000 people rely on these mountains as a water source. And Utah is one of the fastest growing states in the union in no small part because of the quality of life these mountains provide.
The Accord is the culmination of two years’ worth of public feedback, stakeholder involvement and leadership decisions and was established to make critical decisions and implement solutions to preserve the Central Wasatch and ensure its long-term vitality. The Central Wasatch mountains are one of Utah’s most pristine and valuable natural resources. In the face of a rapidly growing population, those values could be at risk unless action is taken now.
The following outlines Mountain Accord’s vision broken up into bite-sized pieces. Go ahead; look under the hood. The Accord is a set of principles, proposed solutions and intended outcomes. Pretty heady stuff, we know.
As our population increases, the importance of healthy watersheds, vegetation, wildlife, and other natural resources will become crucial. All future plans will continue to aggressively protect the water shed.
The Accord directs us to develop an environmental monitoring system to produce a scorecard to inform planners and help us make decisions that will take into account impacts to environmental conditions.
Mountain Accord proposes the creation of a new federal designation for the Central Wasatch Range, which would allow for all existing recreation activities and current uses while providing elevated protections and management standards in the CWR.
Current population along Wasatch front and back
Projected population along Wasatch front and back by 2040
Building a sustainable transit network that connects to existing transit on both the Wasatch Front and Back is a key element of Mountain Accord. We also want to reduce the ease of private car use, through carpool incentives, parking and access fees and other solutions.
In the next year Mountain Accord is working to improve the quality, reliability and speed of existing bus systems in Parleys, and Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.
High-capacity trains like those employed in European Mountain towns have been considered and will be discussed by Mountain Accord stake holders but have been deemed too costly and divisive for any near future implementation. MA is focused on improving bus systems in the near term.
While our current development patterns are automobile-oriented, transit oriented planning will cluster development around transit hubs and limit sprawl in the foothill and mountain areas.
We want to include transit solutions that allow for cyclists (who already use the canyons) to ride safely.
Over time, population growth, increases in recreation demand will put continually greater pressure on developed and undeveloped recreation areas. Its up to us to come up with solutions that will enhance recreational experiences while planning future growth to protect the Central Wasatch as a whole.
Although ski resorts are big part of Mountain Accord, we are studying year-round solutions for all canyon users. The Central Wasatch is not for certain demographics or groups, it is a resource for us all. We need to manage this sensitive area to allow access and recreation in a way that protects the environment.
Mountain Accord proposes a land exchange with the ski areas to tidy up the patchwork of public and private lands surrounding the resorts and transfer key areas for protecting watershed and backcountry access into public hands.
Trail Improvements will help organize and improve the vast network of trails within the Central Wasatch. Organizing trails helps prevent erosion and confine recreation to managed areas.
In 2014 Central Wasatch received nearly twice as many annual visits as Zion National Park.
live within 25 miles of the Central Wasatch.
Generating sustainable economic growth to reinvest in the Central Wasatch mountains will require finding tax revenue that can be captured for reinvestment in the Central Wasatch (e.g., preservation, restoration, improvements, etc.).
We’ve often heard the phrase, “don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.” Mountain Accord’s economic development initiatives will prioritize and fund opportunities to protect and enhance the environment.
To ensure Utah’s tourism market is competitive now and into the future, we need to connect fragmented economic markets, develop an urban-mountain brand that is unique in the world. We will improve the visitor experience for residents and visitors year round with high quality transit choices to mountain activity centers.
We want to limit development in the mountains and plan any development around thoughtfully designed transit hubs.