Motorists drive in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Mountain Accord was created and is a collaboration of government, business, private and special interest groups that have come together to work on long term solutions for the transportation, recreation, economic and environmental issues facing Little, Big and Parley’s Canyons.
The signing of the Mountain Accord as a blueprint for future development of the Central Wasatch marks a milestone victory for not only those committed to the prudent use of the lands in question, but also for anyone who harbors hope that government entities and special-interest groups with competing agendas can come together and hammer out a compromise.
The agreement forged over two years of discussion among dozens of stakeholders is not a binding commitment but an outline of principle with specific suggestions for future development and transportation planning. What it calls for may or may not come to fruition, but the nature of the agreement serves as a model of cooperation and inclusion in the process of balancing economic development interests with the concerns of conservationists.
For that alone, the parties involved deserve commendation. We now have the benefit of an agreed-upon vision for the management of the fragile lands in and around the Wasatch ski resorts and backcountry. Specific plans for various land use will be measured against the backdrop of that agreement and will be subject to a formalized process for public input and environmental regulation.
The beauty of the accord is that it brings antagonistic parties to an elusive nexus of common interest. Backcountry enthusiasts have assurance against development in wildernesslike areas. Resorts will be able to expand amenities within certain parameters and transportation planners will be able to pursue a more focused approach to figuring out how best to move people to and from and around the canyons.
Noteworthy in the process is the acquiescence of ski resort owners to the notion of creating protections against their future expansion in areas that Congress may be asked to designate as a national monument or conservation or recreation area. It demonstrates perspicacity among development interests in recognizing that environmental protection of the Central Wasatch is in their long-term interest as well.
The parties to the accord have served to outline the architecture of the Wasatch of the future, even though there are no guarantees its specific tenets can’t be undone by litigation or a change in political administrations on a lot of different levels. Even so, it stands as a rare platform of coalescence among a broad array of stakeholders, which by itself is a mountainous achievement.