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Mountain accord gets praise, criticism

Photo: Steve Greenwood via Visit Salt Lake

(KUTV) The Executive Committee of the Mountain Accord presented and voted unanimously for its final version of recommendations for the future of the Central Wasatch Mountains. The committee met at Sandy City Hall and after the vote, got praise and criticism for its work.

Some of those at the well-attended meeting praised the committee for its efforts to bring together a diverse group of leaders with sometimes opposing views.

"This has been a really unprecedented effort in achieving consensus on very difficult issues," said a representative for Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

Others, like Steve Nau of American Fork, said the committee is not looking out for the wishes of ordinary citizens. He pointed the fact that nobody from his community is a member of the Accord Committee.

The Mountain Accord brought together ski resort owners, The U.S. Forest Service, mayors and environmentalists to develop a compact that outlines a plan to protect the mountains and the watershed while still allowing people to enjoy the central Wasatch range. Rather than battle out land issues in court, the committee worked on a mutually-agreed-upon plan for the mountains.

Laynee Jones, manager of the Wasatch Accord's 23-member committee, said one of the big victories of the accord, is the land swaps that will turn private property into public lands. The Accord will petition U.S. Congress to protect those lands in the Cottonwood Canyons from further development by ski resorts.

One of the Accord's biggest opponents last week was a group of residents from Utah County who were concerned about the potential impacts to American Fork Canyon. Those people were furious when they learned the accord designated public land in American Fork Canyon for a trade with Snowbird Ski Resort. That trade would potentially allow the resort to expand its operation into the canyon. Utah County residents said the accord had no right to decide on the future of their lands – especially since nobody from Utah County was invited to sit on the committee.

At the meeting, the committee agreed to revise the accord and let Utah County lead the way in discussions with Snowbird and the Forest Service. Although technically, the option for the land trade is still on the table, concerned Utah County residents were satisfied to have control over those negotiations.

Other residents expressed concern over a proposal to build a light-rail train to transport people to all the resorts in the Cottonwood Canyons. The committee said while that proposal is still on the table, it will give equal weight to train, bus and car options in an effort to decrease traffic and pollution in the canyons.

The next step is for the committee members to sign the accord. After that, will be more public discussion including the start of environmental study process.

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