Photo courtesy of Wasatch Backcountry Alliance
April 5, 2023
Winter Wildlands Summary: Wasatch Backcountry Alliance needs your public comment submitted to UDOT regarding a gondola proposed in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Currently, the comment period addresses whether or not building a gondola would violate the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which we believe it does. Comment by April 18.
Take Action: Comments Needed by April 18
Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, a Winter Wildlands Alliance grassroots group in Utah, has been tracking and fighting a proposal to build a gondola through Little Cottonwood Canyon.
You can submit your comment via the UDOT website here until April 18, 2023. Please use your voice to say the gondola would directly violate the Roadless Rule and negatively impact wilderness areas.
What’s the Roadless Area Conservation Rule (RACR)?
In short, the Forest Service designated Roadless Areas where road construction and timber harvesting are prohibited to protect these areas from fragmentation. Keeping forests intact is critical to protecting ecosystems. It’s also important for the climate, as intact forests sequester carbon in soils and vegetation.
In Little Cottonwood Canyon, White Pine and portions of Twin Peaks and Lone Peak are designated as Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRA).
During the EIS process, UDOT failed to asses how constructing a gondola would violate the Roadless Rule, hence this comment period. A gondola would require implementing towers, angle stations, snowsheds, and clearing vegetation in protected IRAs.
UDOT claims building a gondola does not violate the Roadless Rule since it is not for motor vehicles, and any vegetation and timber removal would be incidental.
A $1 billion+ transportation project within IRAs, which will negatively impact wilderness areas, wildlife, and the watershed, directly contrasts with the spirit of the Roadless Rule and the areas it protects.
What’s the Background?
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) began an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in the spring of 2018 for Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC) and Wasatch Boulevard in partnership with Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service to provide an integrated transportation system that improves the reliability, mobility and safety for residents, visitors, and commuters who use S.R. 210.
Ultimately, the partners seek to deliver transportation options that meet the needs of the community while preserving the value of the Wasatch Mountains.
As a result of public and agency input, UDOT has issued two Supplemental Information Reports (SIR) to evaluate applicability and potential impacts to Inventoried Roadless Areas and for additional air quality analysis. UDOT is accepting comments on the analysis contained in these reports, as comments received in this comment period that are unrelated to the supplemental information reports will not be addressed in the Record of Decision (ROD).
How Do I Submit a Comment?
You have to submit a comment directly via the UDOT website here. Comments that are specific, personalized, and respectful are highly valued by all involved agencies. You can submit your comment until April 18, 2023. Please use your voice to say the gondola would directly violate the Roadless Rule and negatively impact wilderness areas.