No matter where you live, if you’ve skied or even dreamed of skiing Utah’s Central Wasatch, now is the time to speak up to protect what’s left of the famed Wasatch backcountry – because big changes may be on the horizon.
Earlier this spring, a multi-agency planning process called Mountain Accord released a draft “Blueprint” incorporating input over the past year from stakeholders, including Winter Wildlands Alliance and our local grassroots partner Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, about the future of recreation, transportation, economy and the environment in the Central Wasatch. The draft is shorter on preservation and longer on development than we believe it should be, but also presents an amazing opportunity for permanent protection of iconic backcountry lands like Flagstaff and Mt. Superior.
Winter Wildlands Alliance and Wasatch Backcountry Alliance submitted joint comments to Mountain Accord yesterday detailing our suggested improvements. A synopsis of our position is below, and the full WWA/WBA comment letter is available here.
Mountain Accord has a goal of 10,000 public comments, but is still well short of that goal. By writing your own comment letter, you can help amplify our message of just how crucial it is to preserve the amazing backcountry opportunities and natural environment of the Wasatch.
For backcountry users the Cottonwood Canyons Taskforce Negotiations are the core of the Blueprint outlining a set of potential land swaps, large-scale transportation projects and ski area development that would also protect key backcountry areas and access – a previous action alert email has some suggested bullet points for individual comment letters.
Once you have a good grasp on the issues, please submit a comment letter to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 1.
Our Basic Position
- We do not support an interconnection between Big Cottonwood Canyon, Little Cottonwood Canyon and Park City, or any combination thereof. This includes tunnels. The resulting direct, cumulative and indirect impacts to dispersed recreational experiences and the environment are potentially significant, while economic costs and benefits to the public are not known. As a next step, we strongly support development of a purpose and need statement that balances the ‘Systems’ Mountain Accord is addressing, without giving undue bias to any one element or proposal. Only then can an environmental analysis that considers an appropriate range of alternatives be conducted. We believe this range includes measures designed to provide reliable, low-cost, low-impact transportation to both dispersed and developed recreational nodes in the Canyons.
- We support the general outline of the Cottonwood Canyon Task Force proposal in concept, with several important considerations:
- Private land transfers and/or preservation actions must include Grizzly Gulch.
- Land swaps should be pursued immediately, as a precursor to future development. Lands would be placed into a designation providing a higher level of protection than under the current forest plan.
- All ski areas operating on public land would establish an uphill route inside their permit boundary, and will consider boundary restrictions. These efforts will help minimize the impacts of expansion on backcountry terrain and compensate for lost access.
- We support the other provisions – water rights and development – proposed by the CCTF, contingent on land use regulations and approval following public environmental review.
- Alignment of the new lift in Honeycomb Canyon will not drop below the elevation of the current lift and will not terminate in the Silver Fork drainage (e.g. it will remain in Honeycomb).
- We support a bus-based transportation system as outlined in our proposed Transportation Alternative presented in Appendix C of our comments.