Working Toward Accord
Mountain Accord Board Meets to Mull Public Comment, Next Steps
Mountain Accord Executive Board members met Friday, May 29 at Sandy City Hall to review a draft version of the Mountain Accord. The board is working toward a historic agreement that will balance economic pressures, environmental concerns, water needs, access to recreational opportunities and transportation issues — all exacerbated by a growing population — to secure and protect the Central Wasatch Range for generations to come.
Friday’s meeting was a discussion of the most recent draft of the Accord, a work in progress that was recently revised to reflect sentiments gathered during a public comment period that closed on May 1. And, while it was clear to all present at Friday’s meeting, that much work is ahead, there was a growing realization that many earlier points of contention we’re reaching consensus among board members.
“This morning before our meeting, I went for a trail run up Silver Fork,” said Mountain Accord Director Laynee Jones. “I got to see the sunrise, hear the birds come out and then show up here in a city of a million people at 8 a.m. That is an incredibly unique way of life and we have a chance to protect it and to change the course of history, for our kids and grandkids.”
At this point, the board is discussing strategies contained in the accord with the idea of preparing them for review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This law, passed in 1970, requires all federal agencies to consider environmental inputs in proposed actions. Much of what is proposed in the Accord, be it land exchanges, transportation enhancements, wilderness or other special designations, will require federal NEPA approval, a lengthy process. But the NEPA process will also answer a lot of questions and require a vast range of environmental studies that will aid decision makers. So the next step, Jones explained, is to come to agreement on what to go forward into the NEPA Process with.
Board members held a wide-ranging discussion of the following areas:
Federal Land Designation. One of the strategies in the Accord is to seek Federal Protections for areas within the Central Wasatch. There are many possibilities, (National Monument Status, National Recreation or Conservation Area or Wilderness Area), but any such designation will require Congressional approval.
Land Exchange. The Accord is working to mediate agreements for land-exchanges between federal and private entities. Much of the land in the study area is owned privately and a “patchwork” quilt of public-private ownership occurs in many places. The goal is to clean up this map in way that seeks to protect and preserve the Central Wasatch.
Transportation issues and Transit Options. Transportation solutions are vital to the continued vitality of the Central Wasatch Range, namely the mitigation of automobile traffic in the Central Wasatch’s three main canyons — Parleys, Big and Little Cottonwood. A variety of transit options are under consideration and the board discussed which set of options was most promising and will carry forward into the NEPA process, while agreeing to consider further study of remaining options.
Canyon Connection. Much of the Accord’s mission is setting out to answer the question: “Should we connect?” That is, should transit connections be made between Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons and between the Park City Area and Big Cottonwood Canyon. The NEPA process will help answer environmental concerns about all the proposed connections and the board discussed which should be included in the NEPA effort.