An Accord is Reached for the Wasatch

The Mountain Accord Executive Committee reached consensus at their meeting on Monday, July 13th and voted unanimously on “An Accord” that “represents a public statement of commitment to proceed with the agreed-upon actions with the goal to ensure the activities we enjoy in the Central Wasatch will continue while protecting the valuable watershed and sensitive environmental area that we all benefit from.” (Mountain Accord website).
 Mountain Accord Logo
We want to thank all of you, our concerned supporters, for following this process and your involvement and comments along the way. While the Accord may not be perfect, it represents a compromise on all sides. Throughout this process we have advocated 1) that watershed protection has to be the priority 2) a robust system of environmental monitoring must be initiated and maintained 3) Albion Basin should be given elevated status as a Botanical Area within the USFS system for its unique flora communities 4) the carrying capacity of LCC both socially and environmental needs to be agreed upon, and 5) that a train up LCC and a tunnel to Big Cottonwood Canyon would be environmentally devastating as well as ruin the character of Alta. We are extremely appreciative of the collaborations and partnerships that have been formed with other like minded groups. We are committed to being involved in the next phase of this effort, including a NEPA process and legislative action and will continue to be your voice for conservation as various actions are considered.
Positive Highlights from the Accord

> We are encouraged by many aspects of the stated Purpose of Accord, especially; “The intent of the Accord is to benefit current and future generations by establishing an integrated, comprehensive, landscape-scale framework for the future of the Central Wasatch Mountains that provides for the long-term protection of the region’s water, lands, environment, recreational opportunities, and economic prosperity. The signers of the Accord support a transportation system that serves these values.”

This is just a brief overview of the Accord, the full document can be read here.
> Federal legislation is being written to further pursue federal land designation to protect 80,000 acres of USFS lands (excluding the ski area boundaries) against development and environmental degradation in the Central Wasatch. This may be a National Conservation Management Area, and/or Recreation Area or National Monument – special management plans will have to be written for the areas defining uses and prohibited uses etc…Also currently included in the legislation is the designation of Albion Basin as a Botanical Area. We are encouraged by this inclusion and look forward to working on the details of this designation.

> NEPA Process for Cottonwood Canyons: It is recommended that either the NEPA process or a separate study analyze the capacity of the environmental resources (biological, flora, fauna, watershed) in the Cottonwood Canyons to remain healthy under increasing recreational use. The study should include an evaluation of the social capacity of recreation amenities such as trails to handle increasing use while maintaining a range of recreational experiences.

> We are very encouraged by the last minute addition of language pertaining to the NEPA process to fully consider bus-based transit alternatives and that equal consideration be given to low-impact options versus options that could require major construction (i.e. train).

> We also strongly support the implementation of an environmental dashboard to develop a monitoring, restoration and mitigation plan that addresses watershed protection and mitigation to improve conditions in areas of environmental degradation.

> While the Accord makes recommendations for future actions, most will require a thorough NEPA process before they are implemented. Is is also important to keep in mind that Mountain Accord decisions are consensus-based and do not supersede the authority of federal, state and local jurisdictions.

Areas of Concern

While this Accord represents an unprecedented agreement of government, industry, our community and the environment, we still have concerns about some elements in the Accord, additionally the execution of the Accord is paramount! FOA will stay intimately involved in the details as this program moves forward.

> One of the most concerning aspects is that the Alta Ski Lift Company’s commitment to the Land Exchange is contingent on transit improvements (INCLUDING a tunnel or other type of connection between Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood Canyons).

> We are supportive of transit improvements in the existing roadway corridor and recognize that a NEPA process will have to consider a reasonable range of alternatives, however we are simply not supportive of a train up LCC!

> It is still unclear who will be the applicant/s for any action requiring NEPA.  NEPA is required for any federal agency to disclose environmental effects of proposed federal agency actions.

This Accord is only the beginning of a long process likely including NEPA that will include further study of alternatives and more public comment. We need YOU to stay involved! Please stay up to date with our efforts by visiting our blog (you’re reading it now!)  at friendsofalta.org/blog and following us on Social Media @friendsofalta. Thank you for your continued support.

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