Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Whither the Mountain Accord?

Source: mountainaccord.com
I'm wading carefully into political waters today because I, like many readers of this blog, am concerned about the future of the Wasatch Range.

After a long process, the Mountain Accord was an agreement on a series of actions designed to preserve the watershed and the environment of the Wasatch Range.  Finalized on 13 July 2015, signatories spanned a wide range of offices and interests groups including the Governor, Mayor of Salt Lake County, members of the state legislature, representatives from private entities (e.g., Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Nature Conservancy, Save Our Canyons, Ski Utah), ski resorts (Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude, Alta), and additional individuals.  I attended a few of the environmental meetings and contributed to the preparation of a short section on climate change.  A full overview of the Mountain Accord process and the signed document (i.e., "The Accord) is available at http://mountainaccord.com/.

The Accord probably provided nobody with everything they wanted and there have been some complaints about the process.  However, it was a remarkable agreement, one that is probably the best that we could hope for given the complexities of Wasatch land ownership, jurisdiction, and the like.  Nevertheless, here we sit today, nearly three years later, and progress on intended outcomes, agreed-upon actions, land exchanges, and the like have been feeble.  Political waters have shifted.  Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker has been replaced by Mayor Jackie Biskupski.  County Mayor Ben McAdams is running for Congress.  Donald Trump was elected President.  Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who introduced legislation to create a Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area, has left Congress.  At the time of introduction, he said, "Utah once again leads the way in demonstrating the power of a collaborative approach to local problems. I’m pleased that so many parties with such varied agendas could come together in agreement on a way forward for our beloved Wasatch Mountains. This bill will guide our growth and preservation efforts for decades to come."

I hope this opportunity is not truly lost.  If it is, we will look back with deep regret as the Wasatch Range dies a death from a thousand cuts over the coming years.

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