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Wasatch Backcountry Alliance Submits Blueprint Comments to Mountain Accord

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Photo: Jason Dorais, January 2015

No matter where you live, if you’ve skied or even dreamed of skiing Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, now is the time to speak up to protect what’s left of the world class 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 a year’s input from stakeholders, including Winter Wildlands Alliance and 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 human powered wildlands including extending the protection of the Mt. Superior ridgeline from the Twin Peaks Wilderness eastward.

Winter Wildlands Alliance (WWA) and Wasatch Backcountry Alliance (WBA) submitted joint comments to Mountain Accord last week detailing our recommended improvements. A synopsis of our position is below, and the full WWA/WBA comment letter is available here.

Get Involved
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.

The Cottonwood Canyons Taskforce proposal summarizes the most relevant aspects of the Blueprint to backcountry users. The proposal outlines a set of potential land swaps, large-scale transportation initiatives and ski area developments and would also protect key backcountry areas and access.

Wasatch Backcountry Alliance Mountain Accord FAQs

Mountain Accord Website

Once you have a good grasp on the issues, please submit a comment letter to comment@mountainaccord.com 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, including 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 unknown.
  • 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 expanding their footprint 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.

 

 

Facebook Comments

9 responses to “Wasatch Backcountry Alliance Submits Blueprint Comments to Mountain Accord”

  1. Jess says:

    #keepthewasatchwild

  2. Matt Painter says:

    This page says to submit comments to comments@mountainaccord.com. This is wrong. The correct email address is comment@mountainaccord.com

  3. Thank you for your succient and well reasoned position statement. I was a member of the precursor Cottonwood Canyons transportation plan, and I your comments were echoed in that effort as well regarding an incremental and low impact approach to transportation changes. Adding additional protections to key BC ski use corridors is right on. If you need assistance in economic or land use reviews happy to help.

    Bob Farrington
    Farrington Community Planning + Development

  4. Bryson Duncan says:

    My name is Bryson Duncan. I am an 18 year old high school student that is a sponsored backcountry skier. I love to ski in the backcountry and i am so grateful and so blessed to be able to ski in the greatest snow on earth. I am writing today to talk about how the backcountry touring has helped shape my life.
    My dad has always been into backcountry skiing and would go a few times each year growing up. I always wanted to go but he wouldn’t ever let me. At age 11 he finally took me, my gear was awful but i couldn’t of had more fun. Over the next few years i slowly got a little better at touring, I was in better shape and got slightly better gear. I was skiing with my dad every weekend and if i was lucky i would be able to go skiing once during the week. Towards the end of my summer between 8th and 9th grade i was in a very bad car accident and ended up in a coma for 9 days. Once i was had gained enough strength to return home i looked to the mountains for strength. Looking forward to winter, looking forward to getting out and touring in the beautiful Wasatch backcountry got me through recovery. Since then i spend every moment i am able skiing or being in the mountains. I love working out and love going fast. Backcountry skiing offers me both thrills in the most unique package. It breaks my heart to think about people taking away the land that means so much to me. I would not have the physical strength that i have today if it was not for the looking forward to skiing though the Wasatch. It makes me so sad to think that those areas will be taken away. That these great backcountry ski areas that was able to push myself in were taken away. I would ask that you would think of me when making the decision, thinking of me and my generation of what might come for us. We too want to be able to move freely in the mountains without dealing with crossing rope lines and groomed runs.
    Thanks for your time.
    Bryson Duncan

  5. Willis Richardson says:

    I agree with the positions taken by the Alliance. My concern is because of the political makeup of Utah. Money before any consideration of our natural habitat will be the over riding factor. The idea of the so called “balanced approach” is utterly absurd when any wilderness is concerned. People come here from all over the world and are awed by our state. The idea of the states taking over public lands will be struck down and another waste of taxpayers money. The national parks and federal have problems beause they are under funded. Utah can’t run its state parks because of funding. How will they run the federal lands? It is simple, sell oil, gas, land and timber rights to the highest bidder. The idea of Manifest Destiny is over. It is an early twentieth century concept. We have reached the Pacific Ocean. We are now feeding on ourselves.

  6. Kameron H. says:

    As a proud Utah native, I would like to be able to take my future children backcountry skiing in the Wasatch just like my father took me. Taking away some of the safest backcountry skiing within 20 miles of the largest cities in Utah would be fatal. Fatal because it would force everyone from first time backcountry skiers and snowboarders to seasoned experts to travel farther and farther from civilization. Where then can people safely backcountry ski? South to the steeper, less forgiving slopes of Timponogos? Or even worse the High Uintas? Just wait, if backcountry access is closed to some of the most forgiving/accessible spots in the Wasatch riders will be forced to move elsewhere. Slopes less understood, undercontrolled, slopes waiting to claim lives. As a former ski instructor and skiing enthusiast, I urge you to please leave the Wasatch alone. If riders want one mega resort similar to those in Europe…. let’s let them go to Europe. Don’t degrade Utah’s wild lands, and especially not for an industry that may not be around much longer thanks to decreasing snowpacks.

    Keep Utah Wild

  7. tom diegel says:

    Hey Bryson

    thanks for the really heartfelt essay. We are glad that you made it out of your accident and are shredding well. We are confident that most of the b/c won’t be taken away, but it’ll be important to remind the mountain accord folks how much you value the backcountry, so if you haven’t sent that -or another – comment in to the MA email address, do so soon!

  8. Scott Battle says:

    To whom it may concern,

    I have been been traveling to the Wasatch every year for about 10yrs. Prior to that I went to CO or WY. The most important factor in choosing my destination is backcountry terrain. The access to backcountry terrain in the Wasatch is second to none. My opinion is that you should protect and preserve it.The terrain is fantastic but is already under a lot of pressure. At times this year the backcountry was so tracked out that it looked like a resort.I’m aware that it was a bad snow year, but the backcountry user group is expanding, and reducing the amount of backcountry terrain only compounds the problem.

    I love visiting UT, but my ski partners (4 of us)have already had thoughts about going somewhere less crowded. Although we visit to backcountry ski, we typically spend at least 2 days resort skiing and maybe more if avalanche conditions are above moderate. Thats money that will be spent in WY,British Columbia and other less developed places.

    Choose wisely…once its gone, its gone for good. Protect what makes UT special, or folks like me will look elsewhere.
    Thank you for your time.

    Sent from my iPhone

  9. marie says:

    The County Planning Commission closed their public comment period this past Wed morning. 2/10/16. And at the one Mtn Planning Commissions meeting where they had public comment (George was there), 2/04/16, Mayor McAdams asked the commission to be ready to make a recommendation at their next meeting, which will be 3/3/16 @4p. I fear the land trade issue will be a done deal by may 1st. Please encourage people to send comments directly the Mtn Planning Commission. c/o WGurr@slco.org.

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