Guest editorial: Save Our Canyons says Accord is an opportunity
May 8, 2015
There has been much confusion about Mountain Accord over the past few months. We at Save Our Canyons see the Mountain Accord as an opportunity relying on the community voice to help shape it. Development interests seemingly always have an opportunity to push their agenda, but this is that rare occasion where the rest of us have equal opportunity to realize our vision. Mountain Accord is attempting to find homeostasis for the Wasatch and emerge with an informed and unified vision for the future. After a year of working with over 200 stakeholders representative of the region, Mountain Accord has emerged with a draft that demands your unique perspectives.
So why Mountain Accord? Because the built environments of the Wasatch Mountains that exist today are the results of piecemeal jurisdictional decision making, the result of conflict, decisions made by judges evaluating whether the language in a zoning authorization was legal — not whether it was a sage land use decision. Recognizing the complexities and issues, the Mountain Accord created a process that is heavily weighted by concerns of the public.
There is an unhealthy paranoia about this effort permeating the region, which is unfounded and driven by misinformation. The controversial issues of transportation, development, and ski area expansion are not unique to, nor the brainchild of Mountain Accord. These threats have increasingly become a regional constant, but they aren’t new ideas, many are over thirty years old. For instance, the first documented time that trains, tunnels, and lift interconnects were considered was in a 1980 document for the governor. At the core of this proposal is the multi-million dollar question that our communities have tried to answer for decades. Should we connect our resorts? If so, how and what are the consequences?
If the Mountain Accord went away tomorrow, if it fails as some are hoping, it would kill the opportunity to realize some of our long standing regional conservation goals. Goals including adding increased protections on our national forest, curbing development of our mountain landscape, establishing additional pools of money to acquire land that will enhance recreation and resiliency of the land, just to name a few. Many of the good ideas in the draft "blueprint" need your support and thoughtful commentary. Let’s not be afraid to express our concerns and to have an informed and factual discourse. It is dangerous and inappropriate to call for the demise of this opportunity based on rhetoric and fear mongering.
I’ve been working on conservation issues, trying to protect the Wasatch for over a decade now, I’ve interacted with hundreds of others who have been doing it longer than I’ve been alive. I’ve watched the landscape change despite our best efforts to say it should not. I’ve seen the development of sacred mountain tops, the incessant creep of development devour entire slopes of mountains. I believe that the Mountain Accord is creating opportunity to try and shape the future we all want to see, to realize the utopian vision so eloquently put by one of Utah’s sons, Wallace Stegner. "One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native home of hope. When it fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism, is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery."
This embodies my efforts as a stakeholder in the Mountain Accord process. Mountain Accord is trying to reconcile the complicated wants and needs of the region to steward the landscape and to strive for conclusiveness in alpine development, curbing mountain sprawl. You should too.