What Is Mountain Accord Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get involved in Mountain Accord?

Your input is highly valued and will help shape the future of the central Wasatch Mountains. An official public comment period closed on May 1 but we encourage you to sign up for our newsletter to stay informed on future updates, developments and additional opportunities to weigh in on our work. And please do call us at  (844) 5-ACCORD (844-522-2673) or email: info@moutainaccord.org

How does Mountain Accord protect the environment and watershed?
Mountain Accord is seeking to build a long lasting plan that will:

  •  Secure additional protections on federal lands to provide permanent and predictable management.
  • Work with ski areas to place lands in the upper Cottonwood Canyons into protective public ownership.
  • Acquire private lands from willing sellers to secure additional protection and conservation areas.
  • Identify and protect key wildlife corridors.
  • Broaden watershed protections.
  • Monitor environmental health.
  • Implement an environmental monitoring program and create an adaptive management plan.
  • Analyze and mitigate environmental impacts prior to implementing proposed actions.
  • Protect and restore the environment.
  • Implement an environmental restoration program.
  • Confine growing recreation use to appropriate and already used areas to prevent non managed degradation of sensitive environmental resources by over-use.
  • Plan for transportation alternatives that will result in environmental benefits to the mountains. In addition, proposed transportation, economy and recreation actions provide strategies that can protect our vital natural resources. Improving transit has many benefits which include:
    • A reduction in automobile use which, in turn, reduces fossil fuel consumption, resulting emissions, and pollutants in storm water runoff from roads and parking lots. Transit can also decrease the need to add or widen roads and parking lots to meet demands of growing populations.
    • Encouraging transit-oriented development, can reduce sprawling development patterns, promote concentrated development and open space protection, and further reduce environmental and water impacts associated with automobiles and development. 
How could Mountain Accord’s proposed transit options improve air quality?
There is no quick or easy fix for our air quality problems however air quality improvements can be realized by reducing pollutants emitted from automobiles. These reductions can be achieved by decreasing auto use and vehicle miles traveled, reducing idling on congested roadways, and providing non-auto transportation options such as transit, walking and biking. Mountain Accord proposes to provide transit connections and reduce auto use. In addition to providing transit options that can compete with automobiles, air quality improvements can be realized through changing development patterns. Less sprawl and more concentrated development in economic centers, as identified by Wasatch Choice for 2040, can reduce driving and improve air quality.
How is Mountain Accord different than the One Wasatch proposal?
ONE Wasatch is a proposal introduced by Ski Utah in 2014 to connect all 7 Wasatch Front ski resorts with ski lifts or gondolas. Ski Utah and all 7 resorts support the proposal. Mountain Accord balances important considerations for the environment, watershed, recreation, and economic needs. Instead of connecting the resorts via ski lifts, Mountain Accord seeks to connect major recreation and economic centers, including the resorts, via transit, roads, and trails. Ski lift connections are not included in Mountain Accord. Our transit connections, as proposed, would be year-round, all-weather, and would also connect the population bases in the Park City area and the Salt Lake Valley with the resorts and other recreation opportunities in the mountains, thereby reducing auto use. The proposed transit connections provide many benefits not available with ski lifts including ability to operate independent of weather, wheelchair accessibility, ability to operate all day or year-round, and faster travel times. Mountain Accord contemplates transit connections between canyons including building tunnels in higher elevation areas to preserve iconic ridgelines, watershed, and hiking/ backcountry skiing areas. The combination of transit and trails would also provide opportunities for loop hiking and biking (starting in one canyon and finishing in another). 
How would backcountry skiers, snowboarders and other recreational users be benefited or impacted by Mountain Accord?
The land use protections and adjustments proposed would place lands currently used by a diverse group of winter and summer recreational uses, including backcountry skiers and snowboarders, into public ownership and protection. These areas include some of the easiest to access, most heavily used, and highest elevation backcountry skiing and snowboarding terrain on Mt. Superior, Flagstaff, Emma Ridge, White Pine, Guardsman Pass, and Cardiff Fork. Mountain Accord is also considering potential ways to place backcountry skiing and snowboarding terrain in Grizzly Gulch into public ownership and protection; and is specifically seeking public feedback regarding the importance of including this area in the proposed land use protections and adjustments. These areas have been the subject of longstanding land use debate especially as it relates to possible ski area expansions. Placing these areas into public ownership and protection would secure public access for recreation in all seasons and settle the disputes in perpetuity. Dispersed recreation users would also benefit from other actions such as the proposal to improve the regional trail system and improve transit service to mountain destinations. Some proposed actions, such as obtaining federal land designations could restrict some types of recreation use, while other proposals could add user fees. During the next phase of study, specific impacts and of all these approaches will be evaluated.
What are the next steps on the trail network?
An implementation plan is being developed that will help prioritize the sections of trail based on shovel-readiness, funding, and other factors. Pending public feedback, Mountain Accord intends to begin implementing actions to enhance the trail network immediately in Phase Two.
What is NEPA?
Much of what is proposed in the Accord will require review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This law, passed in 1970, requires federal agencies to consider environmental inputs in proposed actions. Land exchanges, transportation enhancements, or federal land designations, will require federal NEPA approval, a lengthy and valuable process. Maneuvering through NEPA process will answer a lot of questions and require a vast range of environmental studies that will eventually aid decision makers.
There are already many projects proposed in the study area. How does Mountain Accord affect those projects?
Mountain Accord has incorporated recommendations from several previous planning efforts and projects. Some projects proposed prior to Mountain Accord have already been agreed to and will continue to progress. Proposals made but not approved prior to Mountain Accord can be considered and could go forward, undergo refinement or be eliminated.
What short term/immediate projects are being considered for implementation as part of Mountain Accord?
Mountain Accord proposals are intended to address long-term needs, although many of its proposed projects could be implemented in the short-term. Smaller or less complex projects could be implemented immediately. For example, we are working towards developing a voluntary shuttle system in Mill Creek Canyon, an environmental monitoring program, and certain trail and trailhead improvements.
How will Mountain Accord projects be funded?
Mountain Accord funding will likely come from a range of sources beyond those associated with traditional transportation projects, including the private sector. It is expected that the unique nature of the projects proposed will generate sustainable economic growth. That growth will provide new revenue sources for transportation initiatives as well as preservation, environmental, and recreation improvements in the mountains. The accord process includes detailed economic study to identify specific economic benefits and funding sources.
What types of additional protections are proposed on U.S. Forest Service administered lands?
There are many types of protections that can be explored for lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service. Although Mountain Accord has not yet identified a preferred mechanism for protecting public lands, examples of protective designations include: National Recreation Area, National Conservation Area, Wilderness, or National Monument. The intent is to employ federal land destination laws to secure and maintain to maintain the same balance and diversity of uses that we have today. Read more here.
Is Mountain Accord proposing ski area expansion?
Currently a “patchwork quilt” of public-private land ownership occurs in many places. The goal is to clean up this map in way that seeks to protect and preserve the Central Wasatch. To do so, modest ski area expansions are being proposed (210 acres) in exchange for 2,150 acres of private land to be preserved for public benefit.
Will private cars still be allowed in the canyons if Mountain Accord’s proposed transit connections are implemented?
A primary goal of Mountain Accord is to provide alternative transportation options and reduce future impacts of automobile traffic in mountain areas. User fees, paid parking and other disincentives to driving are being considered in conjunction with measures to incentivize transit use.
Will proposed transit routes in Little Cottonwood Canyon use existing roads or create new pathways?
To date, only conceptual alignments have been explored in Little Cottonwood Canyon. One option would be to parallel the existing roadway. This option would require creating more avalanche sheds than a new route separate from the road, which could be located outside most of the avalanche paths. Detailed transit alignments will be developed and evaluated as part of an environmental impact statement (EIS). In developing alignment options for the EIS, Mountain Accord will strive to meet the transportation goals as well as environmental and recreation goals. This includes developing designs that accommodate an off-road trail in the corridor and that minimize impacts to environmental resources. We will seek public input on specific alignment options during the EIS process.
Are specific transit alignments proposed in the Park City area?
We have heard that SR 224, SR 248 and I-80 are priorities for transit and transportation discussion and these will be the focus of considerations in the next phase.
Why isn’t Mountain Accord proposing to build a train in the I-80 corridor as part of the recommended Next Steps?
Rail is not proposed on I-80 at this time because express bus service could meet all the identified purposes for the I-80 corridor and at lower costs and impacts than extending rail up Parleys Canyon. This is because I-80 is primarily a commuter and freight corridor with high capacity for automobiles and little congestion. Based on traffic projections for the next 15 or more years, a rail line from the airport to Summit County via Parleys canyon (an extension from the existing TRAX system west of the University) would have substantially slower travel times than cars or an express bus on I-80. In the latter part of the 25-year planning horizon, if congestion grows substantially on I-80, rail in this corridor would be more competitive with automobile travel times and therefore is part of the longer term vision of Mountain Accord but is not proposed for immediate action at this time.