A collaboration of entities from across the Wasatch Front and Back have been working on issues related to the Wasatch Mountains, including transportation, recreation, environmental protection and the economy. Save Our Canyons is hosting a forum to discuss some of those issues.
Carl Fisher, Executive Director of Save Our Canyons, said his group wanted to host an informational forum that gets the community thinking about future uses and demands in the Wasatch Mountains.
"We want to talk about the wilderness legislation for the Central Wasatch Mountains that's been discussed over the last few years," Fisher said, adding the federal legislation deals with 24,000 acres in Mill Creek and Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons that would add additional acreages to protect watersheds and dispersed recreation.
The area that Ski Link (a gondola that would connect Canyons Resort with Solitude Mountain Resorts) was proposed to go through is part of that legislation, Fisher said, though the discussion will not center on Ski Link. Panelists for the forum include Park City Council member Andy Beerman, Salt Lake Public Utilities Water Resources Manager Laura Briefer, Wasatch Summit Program Director Laynee Jones and Black Diamond Equipment CEO Peter Metcalf.
Beerman and Summit County Council member Chris Robinson are on the Wasatch Summit Executive Committee, which seeks to collaboratively address environmental, transportation, land use and economic issues surrounding the Central Wasatch Region. Entities from across the region are included in the program.
"Hopefully people will leave the event with a better understanding of what the Wasatch Summit is about," Beerman said. "It's not about Ski Link it includes water, wilderness, possible ski area expansion and long-term transportation solutions."
Robinson said the Wasatch Summit is important because many of the entities involved have been dealing with issues separately.
"How are we going to continue to use this great resource known as the Wasatch?" Robinson said. "The Wasatch Summit [will] try to come up with some proposals for the long term for the next 50 to 100 years."
Briefer said she hopes the forum is a two-way discussion between the panelists and the public. She helped to co-author a study that looked at vulnerabilities Salt Lake might face related to water resources as they are affected by a warming planet.
"I hope that our larger collective community maintains a good idea of what our future issues are going to be that we need to address, looking broadly both at population growth and climate change as challenges and also looking at opportunities for prosperity and sustainability," Briefer said.
"We looked at how temperature and precipitation impacts the flows in our streams," Briefer said. "We found that, on average, for every degree Fahrenheit of temperature increase, we would lose 3.8 percent of our water supplies annually."
That data was taken from modeling provided by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, a National Weather Service entity. With temperature increases, Briefer said, peak runoff shifts to earlier in the season, which creates a larger gap for meeting peak water demand.
Metcalf said that the work Save Our Canyons does coincides with Black Diamond Equipment's vision of preserving the environment.
"Black Diamond truly believes that open space and public lands are as important to our business and our customers as world-class ski areas, bolted crags and ease of access," Metcalf said. "We want to speak up on behalf of [those] multiple uses, recognizing that that multi-use involves intelligent zoning of our public lands."
The Salt Lake Valley has looked at the Wasatch Mountains as a greater ecosystem for a while, Metcalf said, and that Park City and Summit County need to start to think of it in a similar way. He added that it is important to preserve and protect what land exists to accommodate population growth with the least negative impact possible.
"To move into the future, we envision we're only going to get it by public participation and activism," Metcalf said. "We know there's a small minority of vested economic interests that will drive us into a future we don't want."
"Uniting the Wasatch" is a free event that will take place at the Newpark Resort in Kimball Junction, 1456 Newpark Boulevard, on Wednesday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m. To RSVP to the event, visit saveourcanyons.org. Food and drinks will be provided at the event by Red Rock Brewery.